Developing a Communication Plan for Your Growing Network
Networking can be an exercise in futility if not adequately managed.
Actually, for me I’ll go one step further; face-to-face networking can be anxiety producing, out-of-comfort-zone, exercise in cold sweats.
Maybe I have my mom to blame for continually drilling into my head I shouldn’t talk with strangers because even almost two decades into my career I have never felt comfortable networking.
Alas, meeting people and networking is a necessary part of the process, because it is how you make lasting industry connections.
So here it is, your easily executable networking follow up plan that will help you build and maintain relationships with the people you meet in the sports industry!
Within 24-48 hours of meeting someone:
1: Craft a handwritten note
Are you wondering – "is this guy my grandfather?" It’s all email, texts and social nowadays pal!
I get it. I’m in my 40s, not my 70s.
The idea here is to be different, and as Malcolm Gladwell would say, disruptive. I have over 3,000 unopened emails in my inbox right now because I filter the results with ease. I see it’s not from my boss, or from someone that impacts me right now…and I pass it off for another day.
Now think about your physical mailbox.
You grab a stack of mail, throw away sales circulars and junk – and then you see a hand-written envelope. Aren’t you immediately curious? Don’t you always open and read what inside?
It shows a different level of effort and will be remembered for the right reasons, so make your grandfather proud and make it part of your routine.
2: Connect on Social Media
You still need to use the technology at your fingertips and remain current, like I said I’m not 70.
The first move, connect on LinkedIn. It’s the most professional social media platform there is and has an identified niche that it is serving in the social world. Places like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, aren’t serious. Linkedin is.
After connecting make sure you:
- Find out what groups they are a part of and join them
- Start to notice, engage and ask questions where they are
- Share industry relevant articles, so that you appear interesting and connected
- Like, share and comment on content they are publishing
Of course, connect on Twitter, but remember LinkedIn is a gate that they have to accept you through, so it makes it a deeper connection. They are letting you into their world.
3: Set up a Google Alert for Their Name or Business
I checked – this isn’t considered stalking.
You are looking to have further intelligent conversations with this person, and the best way to do so is to keep up on what is happening in their world.
Imagine this scenario:
- You set up an alert after a networking event
- One morning you are notified your desired connection got a promotion (or their business won a big contract etc.)
- You email them and say something like, “I was reading AdWeek and saw you got a promotion at (insert business) congratulations!”
In one short and sweet message you have shown you are keeping up in the industry, stayed top of mind with them and come on, who doesn’t appreciate congratulations?
This exercise took you about 5 minutes – but made a lasting impression.
In the First Few Weeks:
4: Plan out Your Correspondence
If you are anything like me, if I don’t craft a plan and put it in my iCal, I forget to do things (ask my wife).
Set up reminders to talk to certain people you met, jot down some notes on your conversation and craft a few ideas for future discussion. The more work you do in the first few weeks after a networking event, the better chance you have at following the plan and creating a relationship.
5: Figure out How to Help Your new Contact - Get Creative!
The best way to start building a friendship or rapport with someone in the industry is to provide them value, so spend some time brainstorming how you can help your new contact:
Do you know anyone who could help them in their business? You can offer to set up a talk.
Have you read an article relevant to your discussion at the networking event? Share it.
Are there any events or conferences you plan on going to soon? Invite them.
These are simple ideas to offer something other than, ‘do you know of any jobs I can get?”
If all you bring to the table is want, you will grow tiresome quickly.
Because of our podcast I will have fans reach out to me with questions about their sports career via LinkedIn. I try my absolute best to answer them all, but you know what, some people have gone the extra mile and said, “Hey Brian, I know [person X] who I think would be a great guest on your show, would you like me to connect you?”
That person has provided me great value, and I am therefore much more likely to do the same for them. That’s how building relationships work, they are a two-way street.
Every Other Month
6: Make Real Contact
Offer coffee, a drink, send an email, make a call – it doesn’t matter what you choose, plan on doing something every other month.
It can even be as simple as tweeting something out that includes their @ in it. The goal here is to stay top of mind!
The other day I was mentioned in a tweet by a young person who has been asking me for career advice – he shared one of my articles and said how much he liked it. Immediately I thought of him, wondered how he was doing and reached out to him.
All he did was figure out some way to spark a conversation, and like Pavlov’s dogs, I responded.
If you’ve implemented all the previous tactics, communication becomes more natural to generate.
If you go months without conversation, it becomes near impossible.
7: Don’t be Afraid to Ask
If you’ve built a relationship you can ask for things from your new contact – please don’t make it about a job. If you stay present, prove your skills and industry knowledge, this person will think of you if a position opens up, even without you asking.
The things you want to ask about are advice driven. Show this person you respect their opinion and want to learn something from them.
- Tell them you are thinking about taking a class in (insert subject) do they believe that is a wise choice and beneficial?
- Ask if early in their career they wish they would have done something different
- Ask what their biggest successes have been and how they navigated the choices
- Ask anything that piques their interest and allows them to share what they have done or learned. People want to share advice, and people want to help others... people don’t want to be harassed for jobs they may or may not have.
The concept here is more than it appears – we aren’t driving towards many connections, we’re looking for valuable, quality connections.
The goal isn’t to reach 500 connections on LinkedIn that if you asked, have no real idea who you are. You’d be better off making 50 deep connections crossing over many parts of your industry.
One of my biggest pet peeves is having someone ask to connect with me on LinkedIn, but then they never say anything after I accept.
I wonder, what is the point of that? Did this person think ‘Mission Accomplished” just because I hit the confirm button? Any form of networking takes effort, so don’t take the easy way out and go through the motions, make a real connection by putting some effort into it.
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