I once read a networking tip on the Harvard Business Review site which literally stopped me in my tracks:
Build outward, not inward. Don’t waste time deepening connections with people you already know*
As someone who has built a strong offline and online network for years, I question that statement on two accounts.
- Firstly, how do you gauge that you know people enough to not have to deepen the connection?
- And why would you ever not want to deepen that connection?
If you build your network outwards, you’re not unlike a spider that keeps growing a web in the hope of increasing its chances to catch prey.
But just like a spider web, a network grown outwards can also be quite fragile.
In fragile relationships you may not know enough about how you can help your contact, whether they would help you if you asked or who their connections are – and, importantly, whether they’d allow you to access those connections.
By diluting your efforts you may miss something crucial: the glue that holds relationships together and that creates the “know, like and trust” effect that leads to referrals and people helping each other generously and willingly.
So, the best way to win new clients is to build inward, not outward!
Don’t keep making the mistake I see so many (not just new) business people make: spreading themselves thin, like a butterfly moving from one networking opportunity (or social media platform) to another.
Let me share a secret with you!
Even when winning new business from new contacts seems easy, it is never as personally or financially rewarding as business that comes from strong, long-term relationships. These are far more likely to lead to referrals and repeat business which makes building your business much easier in the long-run!
One of the key themes from the ebook From Contact to Advocate™ I co-authored a few years ago, is how to build authentic relationships, online and offline, with the people who matter.
I know from personal experience and the recommendations and repeat business I get, that the principle works!
If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.
New this year: Online blog coaching programme ‘Attract Readers; Gain Impact’ with The Fairy Blog Mother Alice Elliott, Marketer Jean Wolfe and Ute Wieczorek-King.
PS The above post is an updated version of a post first published here in 2011.