Building a Power Network

You’ve heard it everywhere –books, Blogs, Twitter, Workshops. If you want to grow your business, network, network, network. But what does that mean? Networking is more than the sum of your contacts – it’s the depths of your relationships. Here’s how to transform your contacts into relationships and build a power network.

First, building a good network doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, but the good news is it can be fun, too. Your network will be filled with creative, driven people. They will be a font of knowledge, experience, and inspiration. They will become your biggest cheerleaders.

Networking is more than passing out business cards. It is about forming strong connections with professionals who can help you grow your business. I call these power partners – those with whom you can form a mutually beneficial relationship. Get to know your power partners, then figure out how you can help them. Why? Because that’s how you earn their trust. Once you earn their trust, they’ll return the favor and figure out how to help you.

Trust doesn’t magically happen – it takes time and consistency. Invest in people you enjoy spending time with. You must be genuine in your attempts. Trying to befriend everyone isn’t going to cut it. Be professional and caring. Yes, it is possible to be both, especially when you choose to power partner with people you enjoy being with and can learn from.

Follow up. Be creative in the ways you keep in touch. Invite your colleagues to other networking meetings, schedule “coffee dates,” send emails just to say “Hello.” The good old fashioned phone call still works wonders. Bottom line, follow-up is essential in developing relationships and keeping them healthy. The goal is to build strong and meaningful (and mutually beneficial) relationships based on mutual respect.

Joining a network group isn’t enough. You have to be seen. And the quickest way to be seen is to volunteer. Hand out programs, guide people to their seats, tend bar. On the other hand, don’t spread yourself too thin. You can’t be the ambassador for every group you are invited to. Find groups filled with your target clients, groups that speak to you, and let the others go. You don’t want to be so busy attending functions you run out of time to actually do work.

Find a balance between networking and working. Some professionals see their networking as their social life – which is fine if it fits in with your business plan and your family life. Be honest and limit your groups if they become too much.

To get the most out of networking 1) do it, and 2) do it strategically. Stretch your comfort zone and find two to three groups to attend and see the possibility for broader relationships. Once you find those groups, it is time to turn those contacts into relationships.