Networking is an integral part of your business and personal life and there is a need to create new relationships face-to-face. Business networking offers great advantages since it can reach a wide audience including valuable decision makers, which would be difficult to meet through other marketing channels. It should, therefore, be viewed as strategic activity to build your connections over the long term. New connections are established in three steps; create, build, and review. We automatically invest two thirds of this process creating and building new relationships but often we do not consciously make time for reviewing existing contacts in our networks.
Each time you network you are likely to receive an abundance of business cards. Every contact will have its own shelf life and in most cases this will be difficult to predict. Also communications with some contacts will be more active than others. It is natural to unintentionally lose touch with some contacts from time to time so it is fundamental that you periodically re-evaluate who’s who in your network. There is nothing worse than discovering the contact details on a business card you have kept, are out of date. New companies are launched every day which can mean without your knowing it, contacts may start new a business, change employer, or receive a promotion.
We are living in a fast moving world where there are never enough hours in the day so reviewing time needs to be timetabled. An ideal time to review your contacts is at the beginning and end of each quarter. You can approach this in the same way that you would review the clothes in your wardrobe for each season. After a while it will become a habit and part of your business management.
I suggest the best practice model of growing your network based on quality not quantity. Every time you create a new contact, your network expands and can grow rapidly and before you begin reviewing contacts, you should have already entered them all into a database or a spreadsheet for easy electronic management.
Once you have listed the contacts, there are number of ways you can review your network but try to keep it simple. Before anything else though, you should re-visit your networking goals to have a clear focus on why are you networking in the first place. This will give you direction to the right profile of connections that you need in your network.
Even with all the best intentions we cannot keep in touch with everyone in our network, it is just not possible so to refine them, group your contacts into three categories; hot contacts, warm contacts and cold contacts. Those contacts that you have the least communication with should be assigned to the cold contacts category. A reasonable rule of thumb is to include in this section are all contacts that you have not communicated with in the last five months. Cold contacts are also those you have tried to follow up several times but to no avail. Deleting contacts should never be an option because you never know when you might need to reconnect, or make a referral, so it is advisable to keep an archive folder of cold contacts.
Hot contacts in your network are key premium connections that you have built a strong two-way relationship with and you have an interest in keeping the relationship alive. These contacts are gems and will enrich your network in many ways because you both have an obvious synergy still existing from your first networking encounter. You can easily identify hot contacts because you will naturally and without hesitation share your time with them and have a high level of communication. Hot contacts also have a unique purpose in your network, which is clearly defined. Some will be potential clients or may be the source of frequent referrals to your business. They may be suppliers, providers of industry knowledge or key introducers to other similar hot contacts.
In the third category are warm contacts or those that do not sit in either hot or cold contacts. When reviewing your contacts quarterly, do not be surprised if a hot contact moves to this warm contact category as within the three categories warm contacts will be the most active. As mentioned earlier, from time to time contacts may change job roles and your original relationship may weaken because the business synergy is not as strong. In these circumstances, you need to keep the relationship alive by being mindful that the communications will be less frequent.
Don’t be tempted to waste the effort you’ve put in by discounting cold contacts as often, during your review process, you will experience some of these moving into the warm category because your business status may have changed, showing a new avenue to re-connect.
Bella Rareworld, Managing Director of BellaNetworking Events, provides strategic networking solutions by managing every stage of a company’s networking life cycle to fit their marketing strategy. Go to www.bellanetworking.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 269 8036. Bella Rareworld has over 70 testimonials on Linkedin on http://www.linkedin.com/in/rareworld For BellaNetworking Training dates: http://bellatrainingdates.eventbrite.com/ You can also follow her on twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/BellaNetworking