Share this content
Thinkstock

How to build your networking strategy: Stage 2 - Audit

by
6th Feb 2013
Share this content

In the 3rd part of this six article series on how to build your own networking strategy, Heather Townsend, author of ‘The FT Guide to Business Networking, looks in depth at the second stage in building your own networking strategy; auditing your current network and networking activity.

Many trainers, like our case study Juliet, think that they have to build a network from scratch. Actually, each of us naturally has our own network - and for many of us, there will be some great contacts who will be able to help us. In fact, any freelance trainer will probably tell you that their first piece of freelance work came from someone they had worked with in a past role.

When I am running an event on networking, I often use an exercise to prove to the audience that they all have a network and are networking all the time. I ask the audience a series of questions, such as:

  • Who has phoned or texted a friend in the last fortnight?
  • Who has met up with a friend at work for coffee recently?
  • Whose mother has called them? (it’s always that way around!)
  • Who has read a blog post?
  • Who has logged into Facebook or LinkedIn?

Unsurprisingly, everyone in the audience will say yes to at least one of the questions - which, as each of these actions is a form of networking, just goes to show that we are all networking all the time.

Just because you have a network and are networking all the time, doesn’t mean to say that you are doing it in an effective manner. I.e. spending time with the right people in the right places. This is why the second stage of building a networking strategy is to do a networking audit. After all, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. 

The best way to do a network audit is to draw out your network map.

Drawing your own networking map

Whenever I run a networking workshop I always ask my delegates to literally map out their ideal network. I find that this exercise really helps delegates focus on WHO they want to meet, and how these people are going to help them achieve their business and career goals.

"how many times have you turned up to a networking event without knowing why you are there and who you would benefit from meeting? Was it a productive use of your time?"

This may sound rather calculating or manipulative. However, I see it as a tool to help people focus on how they will spend their networking time. Let's be frank here, how many times have you turned up to a networking event without knowing why you are there and who you would benefit from meeting? Was it a productive use of your time? A networking map is a great way of focusing your networking time. It also has the additional benefit of helping you prioritise your networking activities, because you now truly understand why you are networking and why it is important to your future career or business health.

Step 1: Identify your goal, and place this at the centre of the map

Taking Juliet as an example, she decided to draw her map to help her generate three days work of associate work at £600 per day.

Step 2: Identify your hubs

Now think of the types of people that could help you achieve this goal. Juliet identified these types of people, i.e. hubs for her map; current colleagues, past colleagues, training suppliers who she has used in the past, members of her coaching group.

Step 3: Rank your hubs

Not everyone is created equal. Look at your hubs and rank them on order of which of them are more likely to be able to help you achieve your goal. Juliet identified her hubs which were most likely to help her find associate work were suppliers and ex-colleagues, who specialised in working within retail. (Juliet had spent the last ten years as a head of training for two large retailers)

Step 4: Find names for people in your hubs

Then Juliet identified the names of ex-colleagues who she had kept in touch with, and the training suppliers who she had worked with. After Juliet had drawn up her map, she reviewed the map and answered the following questions:

  1. Who is currently well-placed to help me achieve my network goal? What help do I need from them?
  2. Where are there gaps in my network, of the types of people who are well-placed to help me achieve my networking goals?

As a result of this, Juliet started to make an networking action plan, which involved getting in contact with her ex-colleagues and suppliers, particularly those who had a specialism in retail, to talk through her plans for the future. After you have audited your network for fitness for purpose, it’s time to look at your current networking activities. Ask yourself:

  1. What activities are you doing, such as membership of a professional networking group, which are helping you connect with the right types of people?
  2. What activities are you doing which are helping you achieve your networking goals, whether personal or professional?
  3. What activities are not working for you?

As a result of answering these questions, Juliet made a mental note to not join the breakfast networking club which she had been to recently, and to focus on meeting training companies who regularly used associates.

The last step in the audit process is to add in some actions to your networking plan:

  1. What I will start, stop or continue with my networking activities to help me achieve my networking goals?
  2. What relationship plans will I put in place to build or maintain relationships within my current network to help me achieve my networking goals?

After Juliet had finished her audit, she realised that her prime route to winning associate work was to re-connect with past colleagues and past training suppliers, who had a specialism in retail. She planned to ask these trusted ex-colleagues and suppliers for introductions to trainers who specialised in retail.

In the next article in the series, we will focus on what networking activities you need to do to ‘find’ the right people to have in your network.

Read part 1 here

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the ‘Go To Expert’. She is the author of the award-winning and best-selling book on networking, ‘The FT Guide to Business Networking’, and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’. Heather regularly blogs at ‘Joined Up Networking’ and ‘How to make partner

Tags:

Related content

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.