Part 1 of a 4 part series in building a Network Powerhouse
You’re building your network; it’s growing but now what? How do you manage it? Is your network balanced enough? I’ll tell you I’ve always had a problem maintaining an acceptable balance in my network. Mainly because I see my network in three categories: Information, Support, and Referral. It’s tough work maintaining all three categories at the same time but it is worth it.
Most people think that having a network is only gaining referrals however it is not the only network to work on. Obviously, the goal is to have a powerhouse referral network but that doesn’t happen without cultivating your other networks. To break it down quickly, there is a reason why you should categorize your network. First, it makes it easier to manage your network, if you need help on a project you immediately know who to access in your Information Network. Second, it provides balance to your professional life, giving you options when you need help from growing as a professional or getting a reference for a new vendor. Third, allows you to save time, you won’t have to search and call a bunch of people when you need something, you already know what everyone does and to what extent. Fourth, it allows you to assess strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to put people into situations that they will succeed in. Fifth, it helps you remember everyone in your network, as you’ll constantly be referring to your network.
So now you know why you should categorize your network, here are the definitions for each category. Information Network: your source of expertise and experience. Support Network: your source of help and encouragement. Referral Network: your source of business opportunities.
What does your Information Network comprise of? Being a business samurai requires you to know certain important pieces of information. Whether it’s trends, issues, every changing technological and economic conditions; it keeps you on the cutting edge enabling you to always stay competitive. For instance, I am in the technology and design industry; I have contacts that specialize in technology and design, we share information helping each other when needed. I also have contacts that are not in my related field such as fashion who I speak with often to find inspiration and diversification. Having people at this high level of contrast enables you to refine who you are, where you are going, and how you can help your clients. Fortunately for me, my lack of knowledge is always one of my contacts specialties. It is one thing to have a large network; it is an entirely different thing to know whom your network is and how to tap into each other’s resources.
What does your Support Network comprise of? In business we learn to rely on certain people, some who build us up and others who bring us down. Knowing the difference is an example of your business maturity. This part of your network should consist of people who respect, love, and think highly of you. These people like you for who you are not what value you bring them. Most often these people are not your ideal prospects nor are they your information powerhouse. They offer you emotional, practical, business, and/or financial support. They extend what many cannot and will not do for you; they give you their time. These people are the ones you’ll call on when you’re in need. They can also be your crutch when business is crushing you. It is important to remember that these people give a lot to you, never take it for granted, ensure they know how much you appreciate their time and advice.
What does your Referral Network comprise of? Sustaining a business through referrals is ideal but often never achieved because of the time and dedication required. A sale in referral marketing/networking is slightly more complicated as the prospect always comes from someone who tells them about you. That sale will depend on many variables; the quality of the referrer/prospect relationship, previous purchasing history, economic conditions, ease to purchase, and so on. Your Referral Network is the most profitable aspect of your network as a whole. It is important to know who your largest referral sources are, treat that relationship appropriately; don’t be a taker!
Remember to give back to your sources cultivating your network; don’t hunt it. Know that you may not fall into the same category that your source does. Such as you may be in an Information Network to one of your sources that is in your Referral Network. This path doesn’t create a large network quick but it does build a strong influential network that yields real results.
So what’s my call to action? Get off your ass, stop whining about the economy and cultivate the land you have and yield your own amazing results. You get what you put into it, everyone knows someone who can help somebody else.