The people you know and trust you are one of the most important factors in reaching business success. Many of us have met a friend who knows all the right people. With a strong network, you will be presented with opportunities every day. That means we just have one question – how do we get started in building a network?
The answer comes down to habits, actions that you repeat each and every week. Each day or each week, you will perform a few simple actions to grow your network. Over a period of a year, you will have thriving network of people who can offer you advice. And it just takes two hours per week.
Set Weekly Goals To Grow Your Network
Focus is essential in order to build your network in two hours per week. For the first week in this program, set a small goal that you can easily accomplish. You may set a goal to contact two people in your network by email by the end of the week. Starting small and accomplishing the goal is essential to build the habit of networking.
Here are a few weekly networking goals you can start with:
- Increase Network by adding Linkedin Connections.
- Improve my reputation by offering to help people in my network.
- Send out cards to several people in my network who have recently celebrated anniversaries or other events.
Action Step: Write down a one sentence goal to build your network in the next seven days.
Read on to learn more about three common networking tactics: emails, phone calls and cards.
Send Staying in Touch Emails
For those most comfortable with email and systems, you will love this strategy. Sending staying in touch emails to people in network gives several benefits. It lets you share your accomplishments. You can ask for help. You can learn about opportunities and problems that your friends are facing (you may have the skill to help!). Here is an example of a brief staying in touch email that you can write and send in a few minutes.
With the holidays coming up, I thought I would write you a note about what I’m up to. I recently obtained a promotion to sales manager at Intel. I’m loving the challenge of the role. To manage the stress of it, I also training for a race in the fall.
I remember you were studying for a technology certification in the spring. How did that go?
[Your Name and Contact Information]”
Out of your two hours of weekly networking time, I recommend allocating about thirty minutes to sending staying in touch emails. With practice, you will be able to send out several messages each morning before you finish your morning coffee.
Make Phone Calls: Connecting On A Deeper Level
Networking by phone allows for a greater degree of connection. Unlike email and other written communication, a phone call provides greater depth and can be faster than email. Use these tips to make a few networking phone calls each week.
- Internal Networking. If you work at a large organization, you need an internal network to get work done and learn about new opportunities. Take a few minutes next week to read the employee directory. Look for someone in a department you know nothing about (e.g. marketing, finance, IT help desk), call them up and say you would like to introduce yourself. If you keep the call to a few minutes, most people will be happy to chat with you.
- Sustain Your Network. Some people think building a network is all about collecting business cards and meeting new people. Those are valuable activities but they are only part of the story. Use phone calls to stay in touch with people and get to know them better.
- Take Notes On Your Calls. Taking a few notes on your calls is an advanced strategy to make the most of your phone time. There is no need to create a complete record of the call. Instead, simply record a few key points that come up (e.g. name of children, a problem they are working on, interests outside of work). You can then refer to these notes on future calls, emails and interactions. You can store your call notes (and other information about your network) in Evernote.
There is one final point to keep in mind about networking using the phone. On occasion, you will encounter voice mail. There’s nothing wrong with voice mail – you can certainly leave a message. Remember to keep it to sixty seconds or less and clearly say your name and phone number. There is nothing more frustrating than an unclear voice mail.
Send A Card: Remember Birthdays and Events With A Card (or Gift)
Sending gifts and cards to people in your network is a tried and true method. In my home office, I have a stack of cards and stamps so that I can easily send out cards. For the best results, send out traditional cards by postal mail. For maximum flexibility, use blank cards where you can write any message you like. Here are a few occasions you can mark by sending out a card.
- Thank You Cards. If someone helped with a problem, introduced you to someone else or gave you a gift, those are all great reasons to send a thank you card.
- Congratulations Card. On LinkedIn, you may read that a former colleague recently earned a major promotion (or won admission to a MBA program). Those are great occasions to send cards.
- Remembering someone’s birthday and sending them a card is becoming a lost art form. It also remains a powerful way to show that you care about people.
In two hours a week, you can use all the above strategies to build and sustain your network. Consider the following schedule.
- Monday: 30 minutes to read Facebook, Linkedin and other sources to learn what people are doing in your network
- Tuesday. 30 minutes of sending emails to people in your network
- Wednesday. Take a break.
- Thursday. 30 minutes of sending cards to people you known
- Friday. 30 minutes of phone calls to people in your network.
By repeating the two hour network process, you will gradually build a thriving network.