Five steps to implementing a profitable networking strategy

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Despite how effective or efficient you are, networking is a process that can take up valuable time. This time could be used to do other things within a training business.

Many trainers do however waste time willingly when networking. Why? Well, most trainers wouldn’t dream of doing any marketing without a clearly defined marketing strategy and plan. So, why do the same trainers leave their networking to chance, and hence waste valuable networking time?

There are ways to shorten the odds of success via networking, simply by implementing five easy steps and building a successful joined up networking strategy.

Step 1: Set your goals and objectives
You wouldn’t dream of writing a six-month leadership development programme without a good idea of firstly what your client wanted to achieve with the programme and the behaviours which need to change. It’s the same with networking. Set your goals and objectives, before you start tweeting, posting or meeting people. Take a look at the marketing plan for your training business – how many leads do you need from your networking?

Step 2: Identify who you need in your network
When you are networking, you are only looking to meet two types of people – people well connected to your ideal client and ideal clients. These are my networking A-listers. It’s that simple really. To find these type of people, it’s worth looking out for gatekeepers and connectors.

Connectors
In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell identified a special type of networker called a connector. These are people who are able to naturally maintain a high level of influence within a network of people significantly bigger than the average person. But more importantly for trainers, connectors make a habit of regularly introducing people within their networks. While a connector may not, on first sight, be naturally an A-lister for you, the sheer size and influence they wield within their network, means they have the potential to regularly introduce you to the people you do want to meet.

Gatekeepers
Your A-listers are very likely to be people who are gatekeepers to a network which contains a high percentage of your ideal clients. Gatekeepers already have a large and well established network, and are seen to be at the hub of this network.

Step 3: Analyse the state of your network
There are three main activities in the growth of a productive network:

* Building connections.
* Deepening existing relationships.
* Pruning connections.

As a trainer you need to focus your networking efforts on the connections which give you the greatest rate of return – whether that is support, friendship, answers or new business. It is impossible to keep every relationship strong and current, inevitably some people in your network will naturally fall away.

Very occasionally, you may need to reassess a relationship and prune them from your network; perhaps the relationship has gone sour, circumstances have changed or your credibility is being damaged by being close to this person. At its most severe, pruning may involve disconnecting yourself from a contact on a social network. Pruning your network may sound a drastic step, but it is very similar to the reasons why we prune a fruit tree – the act of pruning makes the fruit tree stronger and better prepared to yield a bigger crop next year.

Think about your own personal network. Is it in a state to help you easily achieve your networking goals? What approximate percentage of time do you need to spend on building, deepening or pruning?

Step 4: Decide where you will meet the right people for your network
Once you have identified who you want to meet, and why you want to meet them, the next stage is to identify where you are going to meet them.

There is no easy way to find the best places to network. You need to be prepared to do your research and experiment with events and groups, as not every group, event or forum will work for everyone.

* Ask around and do some internet searches, i.e. where do your competitors and peers hang out?
* Attend a few networking groups as a guest.
* Attend some events hosted by your professional association.

Step 5: How to measure your effectiveness as a networker
Successful networking takes time, money and effort. This means that you need to measure where you are having the most success with your networking efforts – so you can replicate the things you are doing right and increase the effectiveness of your future results.

This is why setting networking goals and objectives before you start networking in earnest is so important. Because otherwise how will you know when you are being successful? Or, how will you know when you need to change your networking mix of activities?

Once you’ve devised your networking strategy, the next stage is to write your networking plan and start networking.

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