Identifying The Right People And Where To Meet Them
Effective networking is all about building advocacy with the right people. People who will look out for opportunities for you without being asked or paid as a result of the strong personal relationship you have with them. Identifying these 'right' people for your business network can be a challenge. Recent research from the Nationwide Building Society found that nearly one third of people do not have a trusted support network in place at all.
The number of relationships you can maintain is limited both by time and other constraints. Research from the social anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggests that the number of people we can maintain 'stable social relationships' with is between 100 and 230 with a mean of 150, the 'Dunbar Number. This number is for those relationships in which you know who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. The number of business relationships you can maintain will be a smaller number depending on what else you have going on in your life. Your business network is one social network amongst a number that you will be part of. The following picture represents how your connections may be spread amongst these different networks with some of these relationships being closer than others as represented by the larger smiley faces towards the centre.
For your business network you probably need to identify and nurture the 50 or so most important people you need to form your inner network. Your advocates will come from this inner network. You will have many more contacts than this as represented in this next picture, but to be effective in building advocacy you need to focus on those to spend time with. You will also need to have some way of recording your interactions with them. This could be with Outlook, another contact managment system or online through Linkedin or Google+.
In parts 2 and 3 of this series I wrote about being crystal clear about your target market and getting clear about your proposition. This is so you can identify possibly the most important constituent of this inner network. Those with the same market as you and providing complementary services. These two things mean they will be in a position to find opportunities to recommend you in the ordinary course of their work. The best way of meeting these people is by identifying the networking groups they belong to and joining them so you can build business relationships with them.
You will also find people amongst your industry & trade associations, customers, ex customers, prospects, Colleagues and people in your other social networks. Don't forget your professional advisors and suppliers too. They have a vested interest in your success.
You will already have ongong relationships with some of these people. Building, maintaining and nurturing those relationships is the topic of the next blog in this series. For links to all 8 blogs in the series go to How To Win More Business Through Networking.