Four tips to building a stronger network with Skip Cohen
“Networking” is one of the most abused words in business today. Everybody talks about their network, often as if it’s something they collected like baseball cards when I was a kid!
It is a collection, but it needs to have far more substance than just knowing somebody. So, right off the bat let’s define a great network as a collection of relationships going well beyond just collecting business cards. A relationship means there’s an investment of time, respect, trust and support by both parties.
Pick up Scott Stratten’s book, Unmarketing, and you’ll soon realize that relationship building is also one of your strongest marketing tools.
Networks = Relationships = Great Marketing
Let’s hit a few tried and true tips to help you build a stronger network.
1// Who’s in your network? Bring people into your network who compliment your skill set and beliefs. Your network needs to be made up of people who have skills different than yours and who you can also help.
2// Define different levels in your network. Think of it like a target. At the center are those people you trust the most. The next circle out might be based on a variety of people with different skills important to you and your business. Go one more circle and you should have contacts at every vendor whose products and services you use. Another level might be people in your community who are clients, opinion leaders and have an interest in the products you offer.
3// A strong network requires care and feeding. Just like a garden, your network needs to be maintained. Keep in touch with the key people in your network. Personally, for those people in my inner circle, I love to use the phone. In a world of impersonal communications like texting and email, it’s actually become novel! It also demonstrates a level of sincerity that can’t be captured in an email.
4// Build relationships NOT business card files! It’s part of the trifecta over why you need to be involved in the industry. Whether it’s conventions, trade shows, workshops, online forums or monthly local association/group meetings you’ve got to be there. For example, at every program you attend at ShutterFest, introduce yourself to the person next to you and invest some time in getting to know them and letting them get to know you.
Take your time in building your network. Having a great network isn’t about the number of people you know or who know you, but the quality of each relationship along the way.