Remember old-school networking? Meeting people, shaking hands and sharing business cards and entrepreneurial stories and building up long-lasting relationships?
In today’s digital age, it’s possible to quickly get hundreds of contacts just through buying a list or hitting social media. So what’s the value in ‘old-school’ networking? Plenty, according to the experts.
| Are we still networking?
Clearly there’s a thirst for networking – Editorial Intelligence states that 41% of professionals say they want to network more frequently, but simply don’t have the free time to do so.
Understanding the importance and value of business networking – and not just doing it for the sake of it – can help you get higher-quality leads, create more opportunities and generate new ideas.
| The real networking numbers
Astonishingly, one in four business people don’t bother to network at all, and only 11% of LinkedIn users have more than 100 connections (Editorial Intelligence). Using Dunbar’s numbers – it is possible to only maintain stable social relationships with 150 people. If it’s harder to maintain ‘steady’ business relationships, then is there any true business value in having 2000 LinkedIn connections, for example.
Good quality leads and contacts are preferable to quantity. Networking referrals generate 80% more positive results than a cold call (Networking Pocketbook). Plus, on average, every person you meet has more than 200-250 connections who can help you now or in the future, and in a variety of ways.
| Networking for better ideas
Whatever method you favour, it helps to go back to the beginning every time you think about connecting with someone. Why are you doing this? How can that contact help you and the business – both short and long-term.
Around 72% of people say their first impressions are impacted by appearance, and by a handshake (HubSpot)? Approximately 85% of jobs are filled through networking, and new research calculates that face-to-face meetings generate an average of 13.36 ideas. Virtual and remote meetings generate a lower 10.43 ideas on average.
We’re all busy, so having shorter, more productive get-togethers over a snack or a walk around the block can work. Seeing a person for 20 minutes over coffee is better than 30 emails. It fosters a better environment for meaningful conversation. It’s estimated that sales people and marketers should set aside a fifth of their working time to network.
| Going social
If you’re looking to land big fish over social media, try the small, medium and large approach. Retweet something you like – a marketing tip, for example, that’s relevant to your specialism or industry. Medium? Comment on a debate that interests you. Then go large and post a self-written blog. It will open up forums for debate and reach a wide audience.
| Keep your lists in good order
Update contact details as soon as there’s a change and do it as regularly as possible. Keep a spreadsheet and detail when you were last in contact with an individual and a short line about what was discussed.
Segment your networks. How did you meet? Conference? Training programme? Socially? These are all excellent ways to network and build high-quality connections.
The Icehouse’s programmes and workshops instil a strong sense of community and inclusivity from the off – enabling people that haven’t met before to build strong and productive business relationships.
For more business ownership and leadership advice check out more of our blogs.