You’ve come home from the conference with a stack of business cards from people whom you have met. Now what? Don’t let them sit on the corner of your desk until next year. It’s time to start developing and building relationships with newly added members to your network. A quick “Nice to have met you” or “It was great to see you again” e-mail gets you started in the right direction with developing a relationship with your contact.
The next step involves shifting your focus on giving. What do the people in your network need? Information? Connections? If you give something to somebody, they will generally give you more than what you gave him/her according to the Law of Reciprocity. Giving first positions you as a resource.
What do you have to give? Try the 4 I’s : Information, Introductions, Invitations, and Interaction.
Information – Share relevant or helpful information to one person in your network each day. You might have read an article or blog post that might be pertinent to that person’s work. Sharing useful information is one of the easiest ways to let a colleague know you are thinking of her. This may lead to a deeper conversation about the topic you just sent to her and allows for an opportunity to advance the relationship.
Introductions – Introduce two people in your group who don’t know each other yet have a common interest (could be a professional interest or personal interest). If you are not comfortable making the introduction, ask each individual if they would like to be introduced. Chances are they would, since many are looking to meet others with common interests and expand their own networks.
Invitations – If you are sponsoring an event/webinar or going to an event that you think a colleague would enjoy, invite him or her – especially if the event is relevant to their business or industry. Make it a win-win where your colleague can gain new knowledge or contacts through you.
Interactions – Recognize birthdays and other special days of members in your network with a card, e-mail or phone call. Social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook make it easy to reach out, and a small gesture of kindness will go a long way to nurture your network.
You say you don’t have time to connect? If you are just reaching out to 1 person a day, it should only take 10-15 minutes. And over time, if you invest in your network, you will see your network flourish. You will experience better relationships, and you will stay top of mind to the people who are important to you in achieving your goals.