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This is a question that I frequently get asked when talking about the tactics and processes around networking. Many people feel ok with their attendance at networking events or networking meetings, but then falter on the follow up.
And as we all know, it’s all in the follow up. That’s where the magic happens.
What I have read and researched on the topic has led me to many articles on why you should nurture your network. All valid content, but few delve into how you can practically nurture your network and ways in which to do so, so I thought I’d dedicate a blog to tips and ideas that I use.
Some tactics I implement consistently and others are more sporadic. I hope these points give you a few ideas about how you can tailor a nurture strategy to fit your schedule.
I’ll do a blog soon on why you need to nurture your network, but for now let’s discover the how and ways to nurture your network.
Why Should You Nurture Your Network?
Building relationships take time, effort, energy and your intention. Time has to be invested in developing and building relationships in a strategic and authentic fashion.
You need to have done this before having an ‘ask’, i.e. looking to someone for help, an introduction or a connection.
Who Should You Be Nurturing in Your Network?
As you network, you’ll build up your relationships. You are most likely following and connecting on social media. You might have connected on email and be extending the relationship on social and Linkedin.
So now the question is, how do you bring this relationship to ‘in person’, if possible, or how do you maintain the connections and keep building on the relationship?
An initial connection on Linkedin is just that. It’s a start…now you need to build connection.
Should You Have a Strategy for Nurturing Your Network?
Yes you should. You have got to be intentional and focussed about follow up in order to work out how much time and effort you are going to put into a nurture strategy, how you are going to roll out the aforementioned strategy and the means through which you are going to nurture people in your network.
When Should You Nurture Your Network?
Well honestly – all the time. It’s not everyone all the time, but it’s a daily activity for at least 15 minutes, where you are connecting and corresponding with people through your network.
I’ll discuss weak ties versus strong ties on another blog, but needless to say, when it comes to networking, weak ties are the ones you want to spend time nurturing.
Here are a few things you can do to follow up after a networking event or a networking meeting.
So you’re on your way out of the event or meeting. You’ve got a few business cards in your pocket or business card holder. What now?
Pad & Pen
Well, first things first. I never leave home without a little notebook and pen. I never know when I might meet someone or come across a piece of information, a useful podcast, an article or something that I can share…and the reason for the pen and paper is to write down the person to whom I want to pass on this valuable information.
I’m a stationery junkie, so I have notebooks of all sizes, but for pocket size or small handbag size, I always have a stack of A6 notebooks to hand, so I can pop one in my bag with a little pen. Always armed and ready.
And yes, you can take notes on your phone, but I’m old school and despite how much I use technology, I still write and love to write everything down.
If I’m out walking, I do write notes, emails or record voice notes to myself also.
If you’ve offered to connect, send, do something for someone you met at a meeting or event, then be the person who follows up. This is the first step in building and maintaining your reputation. And believe me, this matters.
There is not a talk, a training session, a workshop where I’m not talking about doing 1-2-1s. That is, getting to know people in your network on a more intimate basis. Letting them get to know you and you getting to know them. This is imperative if you want to move the needle on the relationship.
These can be done in person (best option), on Zoom (or whatever online platform you are using), on a good old fashioned phone call or indeed while exercising!
And if you’d like more tips and ideas on 1-2-1s and to learn more about why they matter, read this blog on What is a 1-2-1 and Why Are They So Important?
Screen Shots of Opportunities
#journorequests etc – this is an example, but there are loads of opportunity out there that come across the social media platforms you are involved in. If you are on a platform that other people aren’t and you come across something that you think could be good, why not screen shot it and whatsapp or message it over to them?
You can introduce people from your network to each other. There may be synergies in terms of interests. There may be an opportunity for collaboration.
Two people may be in the same network and not know each other yet, but you think that these two awesome people should know each other. Share the love! #Payitforward
You hear of someone who is looking to hire, who needs a job or who is looking to source a supplier…you know the perfect person – make that introduction! And make the introduction personal.
People often pass a piece of paper with a number on it and say ‘call this person’…but that’s cold, in my opinion. So how about this approach:
I’d like to introduce you to Shane. He is looking at redeveloping his brand and is currently on the market for graphic designers who work in the retail sector. As this is your speciality and zone of genius, I thought I would connect you both to start a conversation. I’ll leave this with you both to follow up on.
Many thanks, Jean
So what have I done?
I’ve used all the names and made a warm connection. I’ve intimated that by listening to both Shane and knowing them both, their specialisations, their experience and respective needs, I’ve been able to connect them.
I’m suggesting they set up a time to talk, so it’s already easier to follow up on this by email to start and then move to Zoom, phone or an in person meeting.
I’ve also vouched for Mary, which adds a layer of social proofing.
There is also a process of double opt-in. In this case, you separately discuss the connection and assess if it’s appropriate in terms of need, fit for time etc before making an introduction.
If you are brokering introductions, you can also suggest that once the connection is made, that the person takes you off the email loop or you are put in BCC, as appropriate, so you’re not expected to be engaging in all the back and forth.
If you aren’t using Linkedin actively in your life, can I please urge you to start today?
Have it open in Chrome, or whatever platform you’re using – all the time! Here are some ways to nurture your network on Linkedin:
- Touch base with people if they pop into your head
- Message people with questions, updates, invitations…
- Engage with comments
- Share articles to others in your networking circles
- Connect people from within your circles
- Post your own content and keep your voice loud and proud
- Organise to bring the conversations offline and into the room, i.e. in person
DMs (Direct Messages)
DMs are short and snappy but say, ‘I’m thinking of you’. Now I don’t know about you, but these days – with all the variety of communications channels out there, I do get DMs and then I know I’ve heard from someone but can’t remember on which platform.
Does that happen to anyone else?
I tend to revert back to whatsapp as my failsafe, or Linkedin messaging.
Another short and snappy way to stay connected and say I’m thinking of you. I got a DM on social the other day, passed on my email and now we’re connecting on email about some business…perfect!
I just did one this morning. I met up with the fabulous @muireann fitzmaurice. We went for a walk, her dog got a walk, we got fresh air, lovely chats and then stopped for breakfast and coffee before continuing our work. We caught up on personal and business. It was awesome.
There are two parts to this one.
- You are signed up to lots of newsletters. If you find an interesting one that you think would interest a fellow networker, why not forward it on?
2. The second part of this suggestion is based around always having a call to action, also known as a CTA, on all your marketing materials.
You want to actively grow and stretch your email marketing list. You can send your own content, develop relationships, be that trusted advisor and subject matter expert.
And then from time to time you can develop trust that allows you to sell services, courses, products or whatever it is you do.
Again, like newsletters, I might come across an article that I like and send it on to the person. It says, I listened to you. I see you. It shows you care and are interested in the other person’s success.
On top of being a stationery junkie, I’m a book junkie. My online cart is always full of books. I tend to press send when I reach out 12 books and then I love having them arrive in the post.
I try to do book recommendations on my social media and need to get back to that, but through conversations, I often hear people chatting about content and think – hey I’ve just a book on that or here’s a book I really like on that particular topic…so I will send off the recommendation.
This is simply the best endorsement of someone in your network. If you hear someone looking for a product or service, and you know the very person to help, why not make that connection and refer the company?
This is so great for a quick hello. It can be text or voice note, which I love.
Letter or Card
I have a stash of thank you cards and notelets. I also keep a roll of stamps to hand. I like to write a hand written note of thanks to people who help me.
Take the opportunity to write a little personalised note to people in your social circles.
Social media platforms are great for reminding us of the years passing with birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs etc.
Don’t just use the pre written micro text that Linkedin or other platforms suggest. Make it personal and personalised. The recipient will remember and you’ll develop that feel good factor!
Invite people in your networks to visit other networks that you find valuable. If you’re learning, engaging, connecting and growing, why not share out this opportunity with a friend, colleague or acquaintence?
Are there other ways that you are nurturing your network? Do let me know and I can add them in to this blog on a future edit!
Check out some of my recent blog posts
Let me know your networking questions, qualms, concerns, challenges…and I’ll answer them in future blogs and on my NetworkMe Podcast.