If you’re time-crunched or simply don’t like to network in the conventional sense, implementing even one of these strategies will make a big impact in very little time.
Networking isn’t just something you do when you need something. In fact, that’s the worst time to do it. Given that networking is simply a fancy word for ‘relationship building’, it’s important to tend to your network in all of its points in the evolution of the relationship. That includes meeting, building trust, adding value, and nurturing those connections.
Here are five simple ways to grow a vibrant network that will become the keys to open the doors to the success you’re seeking:
Spend 5-10 minutes daily reaching out to 3 people. According to Dunbar’s Number, we can maintain an average of only 150 relationships. If you reach out to three people a day via a voice text, email checking on what’s exciting for them right now, a book recommendation, a press opportunity via HARO, a birthday wish, a DM response to their social media post, or anything else that feels appropriate to the relationship, and you do this 5 days a week, you’ll have nurtured 15 relationships each week, about 60 each month, and about 180 each quarter. Therefore, you’ll have touched your 150 connections quarterly. Some will require more frequent touchpoints, but you have a 30-touchpoint margin given the chasm of 150 people and 180 touchpoints. Consider how much of an impact this 5-10 minutes a day can have.
Block out a day each week, a section of each day, or a portion of one day for relationship building. Maybe it’s doing a LunchClub call for 45 minutes to bring a new relationship into your fold. Or it’s a follow-up from one of your daily touchpoints that feels ripe to connect more deeply. Or, perhaps you have a regular standing meeting with your top referral partners.
Convene a small group of your contacts to leverage your time, add value to each of your attendees, and build your reputation as a connector. Whether it’s virtual or in-person, curate a small group of people. Either select people who know each other and would benefit from and enjoy a preplanned way to reconnect and/or hand-select a few of your connections who would enjoy and gain value from meeting one another. As a result, you’ve scaled your time in several ways. You’ve reconnected with each person without doing so individually, each attendee is likely to walk away feeling it was time well-spent, and you’ll grow your reputation as someone on whom others can rely when they’re looking for a connection and can trust to say ‘yes’ to your invitations. If you’re looking for great icebreaker questions, here are 55 fantastic ones.
Take the Give It Forward Challenge. For 30 days (or whatever length of time you choose), commit to reaching out to one person each day and offer to help them in some way, with no strings attached. Ask them if they have a goal, need, resource, or some other way that would support them in moving closer to their goals or needs. You don’t have to promise to fulfill it (you’re not a magical fairy, after all), but you do have to promise to try. This will give you an opportunity to reach back out to others in your network who would be helpful in moving towards their aims, giving you a great reason to add value to that person, too. It will most certainly make you feel great for all the good you can do to support others. And it will only take a few minutes each day. One note: Be sure not to accept anything in return as the entire premise is that this isn’t to be reciprocated. If the recipient desires to do something, suggest they ‘give it forward’ to someone else and keep the virtuous cycle going.
Utilize the gaps and margins. Is your meeting-mate running 5 minutes behind? Did your call wrap up 10 minutes ahead-of-schedule? Did something cancel and clear a window on your calendar? Are you sitting waiting for takeoff on your flight? These are all opportune moments to send a few texts, emails, or voice notes out to people in your network. I love to do it associatively, meaning: whomever first pops into my mind, I’ll send them a message that I was thinking of them, asking how they are. Then I’ll consider the context in which I know and/or met them and think of other people with whom I’d like to connect and do the same. For example: You message a friend from college and then run through that friend group, reaching out to each. It takes 5-10 minutes and you’ll be amazed at the conversations that you can rekindle and how much this top-of-mindedness can pay dividends for both parties.
Pick one of these methods and try it for a few weeks. See how it feels and if you can make it a natural habit. Once you have, then consider adding another. Want to add one more connection to your 150? Add me on Instagram and share with me what’s transpired as a result of trying these strategies!