what is strategic networking and does it help to grow my business?
guest author: Jeannette Mutzner
Why is it important to build and maintain your own professional network? What makes a network effective? How do I build a strong network?
When making purchasing decisions, an overwhelming majority of B2B buyers rely on recommendations and information from their professional network. The internet and social media greatly simplify the way people get informed.
networks create trust
Social networking is the informal process that connects people to each other, supporting and helping us to find resources faster.
Networking enables you to offer more of yourself in real life than online, and has the potential to create lasting impact. Already in 2014, a McKinsey & Company study showed that 75% of B2B buyers are using social media to make their purchasing decisions. This highlights how networking and references are closely related. A reference from one’s personal network about a provider, product or service is the strongest way to build trust.
Although most people are aware how important networking in a professional context is, few are aware of the extent and how to use their network. Whether in B2B sales, for daily work or job searching, a well nurtured network can help you achieve your goals much faster.
A few days ago, I bumped into a former colleague on the street. He told me that his boss wanted to create his LinkedIn profile for a long time, but never did. Two days ago, this boss was fired, after 14 years in sales, without any fault of his own.
If he had an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, he would have been able to approach people he's encountered in the past 14 years with little effort and leverage their support. He could have immediately engaged and connected in order to find a new job. This short story shows that networking should be a permanent part of everyone’s professional life, also beyond sales and marketing jobs.
different types of networks
1. The operational network includes the people who support us in everyday life so that we can actually do our job, like work colleagues, neighbours or suppliers.
2. The personal network consists of family, friends or former work colleagues.3. A strategic network serves a specific purpose and consists of the relevant people for your cause.
Social media is an ideal platform for building large support networks. In particular, LinkedIn offers the opportunity to act strategically. You can search and contact people for specific skills. Through authentic engagement - as in real life - you can build real personal relationships and trust.
So-called comfort networks among like-minded people are less effective: people know each other too well, they exchange ideas in a closed environment and usually have the same sources of information. Soft contacts can prove to be much more powerful. They provide new impulses, contacts and experiences.
Sustainable networks are hierarchical, industrial and cross-departmental. They are dynamic and not static. That means they are growing continuously. However, the contact density with the individuals changes over time.
Do you ever hold back to contact someone you've not met? Or do you feel that you don't have a network to begin with? Then stop to consider those you aspire to on a professional level. Most, if not all, have a powerful network to support them in achieving their goals. This certainly isn't by chance. This is a key factor to their success.
Trusting in ones self to reach out and grow their own network is crucial, because without a support network, few of us could do their current job.
4 strategies for effective networking
1. be present.
Through active engagement, giving away valuable content, and even sharing a personal note to show thoughtful consideration, almost every door can be opened to spark a meaningful conversation.
2. refer a friend.
Let friends introduce you to their network, in real life, through platforms or on LinkedIn. As 'easy' as a friend's referral may seem, they are one of the most important to look after, as you now represent your friend's name as well as your own.
3. give more.
Strategic networking is always give and take. Therefore, the focus should be on providing valuable content that addresses the issues of those you wish to connect. Real 'valuable content' comes from taking the time to truly understand their needs and then providing your support, or the support of your own network.4. set priorities and focus.
This point can be difficult especially on social platforms. But as so often in life: sometimes less is more. Keeping in mind your priorities and values, they will ensure you consider whether a potential contact is mutually beneficial.
Already in ancient times, for example in Greece, cities had a center where the citizens met to exchange views on culture, politics and economic life, the so-called Agora. Today, social media - especially LinkedIn - provides even greater opportunities, enabling us to build a network of diversity, to share thoughts, information and experiences online.
Building lasting personal relationships and trust takes time, courage and patience. But there is no greater reward than being able to help another achieve success whilst being supported in reaching yours.
This guest blog was written by Jeannette Mutzner.
Jeannette helps companies optimize their positioning, network and social selling strategies on LinkedIn.
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