Today's question comes to us courtesy of Maren Hogan, who recently asked this compelling question and gave me permission to bring it up here with you today. Please, add your brilliance to the discussion!
How much networking is too much networking, and when do you need to translate community into dollars and sense? Is there any use in staying in front of people if you don't get their business?
I have to tell you, this question has been on my mind for a while too. And boy, does it get expensive to meet and greet with our customers, let alone our peers. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, cha-ching. Association memberships, cha-cha-ching. Conferences, cha-ching cha-ching cha-ching. And that's just the direct financial hit; most of us can manage this with a strategy, or at least a quick look at the checkbook balance. Our parents were right, there is no such thing as a free lunch
The indirect cost, and often the harder one to manage, is the time associated with building and maintaining a network. If you want the payoff, you actually have to show up and join the conversation. Add value. Lurking doesn't count. But all of the reading, chatting, blogging, twittering - that constant pursuit of connection and knowlege online - it's an eyelash away from overwhelming. Oh stop, you know it's true.
I don't know what the answer is, but I do like connecting the dots in disparate parts of my world. And here's where those dots are taking me now. Three years ago I shifted from hands-on recruiting to running a software company, and one of the best pieces of advice
I got in that transition was to begin with an exit strategy
in mind. Simply put, I needed to know when to cut my losses so I didn't gamble more than I was prepared to lose. I think about that a lot, three years into the game, in many contexts: the strategy of my business, managing money and time, even the friendships I make and nurture along the way. It was wise advice because it forces a balance between my head and my heart... and growing up is, I suspect, the art and science of finding and keeping balance.
Here's what I have learned so far about networking, community, and the financial connection between them:
1. Networking is a marketing activity that builds visibility. It's a tool, like business cards or a website. You gotta have it.
2. Unless it's a really crappy product or service, people do business with people they trust. Business seldom comes before trust, and it never stays without it.
3. Time is the most valuable thing I have to spend, and I get 24 hours every single day. If I'm not thoughtful about how to spend it, I lose it. Period. The bonus is that I can plan, and I can choose.
4. It's important to show up, but it's really important to let others know what you do and how you can help them when the time is right. Another wonderful person
gave me that piece of wisdom along the way.
Networking is a variation on the matchmaking we do as recruiters, making connections that may (or may not) produce revenue for a long time to come. But you can't stop feeding the pipeline, because when you do it dries up. So go back to the basics to set your course, my friend: write down what you want from networking, the amount of time and money you're willing to spend on getting it, and how you'll recognize when it's time to try something else. Then just do it
. Aim, measure, improve, repeat -- the secret sauce of success.
In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here
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