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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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How to build your networking strategy: Stage 3 – finding relationships


In the 4th part of this six article series on how to build your own networking strategy, Heather Townsend looks in depth at the third stage in building your own networking strategy; finding relationships to add into your network.

I often tell a story when delivering a keynote or masterclass on effective business networking about George Clooney. The story goes as follows:

People are always asking me who I want to meet - I guess this is an occupational hazard of writing a book on business networking! I always answer, George Clooney. People always wonder why I answer George Clooney? The fact is, my ultimate goal is to become a kept woman, and have total financial freedom. Although I’m being slightly flippant here, George Clooney, represents someone who could shortcut my way to achieving this goal.”

Now, everyone has people like George in their network, people who can help you shortcut your way to achieving your goals. (If the image of George Clooney doesn’t work for you then choose the hollywood star you prefer.) Typically these are people who are exceptionally well-connected to your target market. Sometimes, it may not be obvious. For example, one of my Georges is a good friend called Mike Fieldhouse, who owns and runs a digital marketing agency, realityhouse. His agency specialises in working with lawyers and accountants, which is my sector specialism.

Now, let’s go back to our case study, Juliet. When she looked at her network map she identified that if she was going to get the three days of associate work a month, she needed to meet more trainers who could offer her work. So, Juliet looked through her network and identified all the independent trainers she knew. She then ranked them on how well-connected they were to people in her specialist sector, Retail. The top five trainers on this list were Juliet’s ‘George’.

Juliet then went and did her research. She asked her five ‘George’s’ where they spent their networking time, both online and offline. At the same time, she also asked for any introductions to other freelance trainers who had a strong sector specialism in retail. After all, why waste an opportunity to get an introduction? During her research she found that the best way of meeting freelance trainers who specialised in retail, was LinkedIn, Twitter, retail-focused networking events and specialist events for trainers.

Juliet decided on what activities she was going to do to find more freelance trainers and training providers to add in her network. She took the results of her research, and chose to:

  • Start a blog on TrainingZone, and regularly comment on the TrainingZone articles - particularly those articles with relevance to the retail sector
  • Join Twitter and spend 15 mins a day searching for and engaging with retail specialists, be they trainers or other professionals working in the retail sector. Juliet set up two lists on Twitter, retail professionals and trainers to stay close to. Every day she always checked the tweets on these two lists and gave herself a goal to chat to at least one person on these lists daily
  • Update her LinkedIn profile to clearly show her retail credentials
  • Attend one event each quarter hosted by the British Retail Consortium
  • Join three retail groups and three training groups on LinkedIn and spend nine minutes a day on LinkedIn

Like Juliet, your task at this stage in the process is to make decisions on the networking activities you will complete to help bring you into contact with ‘George’ and missing connections on your networking map. Once you have picked 3-5 activities to focus on, then add these into your daily, weekly and monthly networking activity plan.

In the next article in the series, we will focus on what networking activities you need to do to ‘build’ relationships with the right people to in your network.

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the ‘Go To Expert’. She is the author of the award-winning and best-selling book on networking, ‘The FT Guide to Business Networking’, and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’. Heather regularly blogs at ‘Joined Up Networking’ and ‘How to make partner

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Heather Townsend


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