Some people still try to do it that way but it's out of date.
These days, your network lives in your database, your social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, your phone and your email contacts. It's likely that you've never actually physically met 90% of your network.
Should that matter?
Not really. Not in today's world. I've just written a new blog post called How to Manage a Large Network. It contains seven practical tips for handling and leveraging a huge number of networking contacts. Here are 3 of the tips:
- Cull Constantly. If you're going to add more, you can only go so far before you take some away. Otherwise your network becomes bloated and harder to manage. It creates more friction and is harder to sort and leverage.
- Connect with CRM. This means Contact Management System. You may have an internal work system. Otherwise there are some great ones out there like Capsule, Nimble, Contactually and whole bunch of others. They integrate with your gmail or outlook or other platforms, and also with social media profiles, which is a feature of 21st century networking.
- Go Little and Often. Managing more people and more relationships means taking more time. All relationships are a factor of time spent in, on and with people. But we're already crazy busy. So you've got to use those little nooks and crannies, those downtime gaps in your day to get the networking done. An email here, a tweet or IM there - they all create touch points which keep you connected.
- Segment Strategically. Any buckets, pods or groups you can put people into will make it easier for you to manage them. It could be tags, categories or labels. You can call them by industry, level, location, function, personal, business, clients, customers, prospects, influencers. Whatever works. That way you know who you’re dealing with.
- Send with Social. Social media has change the whole networking landscape. You can be in so many places at ones, sharing your ideas and your content. You can have great conversations. Sure, it’s another inbox to manage. But you can do this on the go, while you’re watching TV and while you’re waiting for your next tram, bus, train, plane or cab. There is a huge overlap with business and social these days, so a social media ‘ping’ is often as good as something more professional.
- Tame the Tools. You’ve got an array of tools at your disposal. You can’t manage a huge network without them. From mobile apps to plugins, from software to systems, you’ve got to master the technology if you want to nail the network. If you struggle with this side of it, you’re losing out on 80% of your efficiency. Get a millennial or child to show you how to use something! But work the tech if you want to work your network.
- Prioritize Pings. I like the word ‘ping’. It’s any form of reach out or connection with a contact. By prioritizing, you should have a way of knowing which contacts you connect with every week, month, quarter and year. Keep your close contacts close and don’t let them get away. Whether it’s prospects you’re closing in on, best friends or influential VIPs, create an ‘A’ list of people who need regular love and attention. Then your ‘B’ list can contain some future ‘A’s. Your ‘C’s are low touch and your ‘D’s are to dump or simply wait for them to contact you.
- Go Old School. People sometimes forget how cool a phone is. The ability to actually talk to anyone anywhere in the world is still a miracle. So pick up the phone more. Drop in and see people face to face more. Send an old fashioned letter or thank you card. This retro stuff wows people and is great for your A list connections.
- Keep It Visual. With so many more connections needing to be made, it’s easy to get drowned out in the noise. A brilliant way to stand out and cut through with impact is to use video with your comms. VIdeo conferencing platforms are pretty common these days. Many people have Skype and most machines have a built-in webcam and microphone. You can also send video emails pretty easily. It’s different and special, and doesn’t take you any longer to do.
- Multiply Numbers. The most labor intensive networking is one to one. After that, one to a group or room gives you scale on your physical presence and effort. You can do that in meetings, networking gatherings and conferences. Beyond that, one to many networking is fabulously powerful way to create scale and leverage. Email marketing, newsletters, social media posts, webinars, blabs, periscopes…all give you access to bigger audiences while you stay in one place.
With today’s modern methods and technology, you can still handle big networks. You just need to be a lot smarter in how you do it. Happy networking – let’s go large!