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How a database can improve your return on networking

September 12, 2011

Networking  has proven to be an essential part of growing my business. I realised last week , that I will probably earn over 90% of my fees from networking this year.  For comparison, last year it was 10%.

However I regard having a database as a crucial part of acheiving this.  Of course for a database to be effective, it needs to contain information that can help you reach your target.  The obvious things are for each contact:-

  • Their name
  • Company Name
  • Sector (e.g accountant)
  • E-mail address
  • Phone number

If you just collected this information after each event that you attended, you probably won’t get much in the way of financial return. At the end of the day, networking is about developing relationships – making sure that people don’t forget you.

Hence your database needs to be a bit more advanced if it is going to help you hit serious money. There are 3 key areas.

1. FOLLOW UP

The first thing that needs to be in your database are fields for FOLLOW UP. When’ve met somebody for the first / second time, you might agree to meet for longer over a coffee. Hence in your datbase have fields for :-

  • Type of follow up (coffee, arrange to meet another event etc)
  • Date of follow up

Potential customers regard reliability as a key part of whether or not to engage somebody – so follow up is a key part of networking.

Note that having a database containing all the follow up plans is useless you actual do the follow up. If you build your database in Excel then you can use conditional formatting to make the cells go a different colour when the follow up date arrives.

2. HELP OTHERS

If I like somebody when I meet them at an event, then I always ask who they are looking to meet. Often such people are in the room and it is easy to introduce.   When I go  home, I add this information to my database.

I then look in my database to see if anybody meets their criteria, and then drop them an email introducing them to each other. The crucial thing here is that the database has helped me introduce them to somebody who is not in the room. It also keeps alive existing relationships (without spam email marketing).

I once introduced an insolvency practictioner and a credit control consultant in this way. The two got on so well, that they actually run a quarterly networking event themselves.

3. CONSISTENCY

The key to networking has to be doing it regularly. Likewise, you need to keep your database up to date – regularly. If you just let the business cards pile up week after week, then they wil become worthless bits of paper. However, if you update your database once a week, and start introducing people then you should start to see some dramatic results in your networking.

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