Build a big network, then give it away

Most of us think of ourselves as great networkers. We collect business cards, carry a black berry and know how to use LinkedIn. But if our network is truly of value to us, why don’t we cultivate it? Why don’t we spend time and energy focused on growing the nodes (people) in our network, instead of trolling to them for our latest and greatest idea that has a need.

Your network is your network. Treat it with respect. Nurture it. It is the most valuable thing you own outright. Only you can take away your network. Everything you need, everyone you’ll ever need to meet — probabaly has a loose tie to your network.

Here’s what I suggest: Cross match your network every week. Connect at least two people in your network because you think they should meet. In person (like at a lunch) is the best. Phone is second best. At last resort you can use what I call a “three-way-email-intro”. You address it both parties and in the email you introduce them to each other and give full contact information (phone, email). You explain in a few sentences why you think they would benefit meeting each other.

Make it your goal to do one cross match every week. Don’t be aggressive about following up or expecting anything in return. Put the introductions “out there” for the greater good. A good networker is like a great waiter — you don’t know they are there, but you know that they’ve made a difference.

If you do this, you’ll see a big jump in the size of your network over time. Why? Because people are great a reciprocating these acts of kindness. My network has grown by almost 50% per year since I started using this system back in 1998. I call this sharing the Love and having faith in people: Bizlove.

By giving with no expectations, you surprise and delight others and improve their point of view when it comes to people. That fills them with positive emotions and a sense of gratitude for you as a person. That generates tremendous mindshare, goodwill and personal brand power. That’s why good networkers seem to have the world always falling into their laps!

One note on smart networking: Do your research and think through your networking experiments. Because they are experiments. People don’t always gel together as planned. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, it is bad for your personal brand. It is also a waste of their time. Think of yourself as a “people DJ” that knows the right mix and the right time. If you get feedback from a networkee, use it to improve your networking intuition.

For more information on this way of thinking (I call it the Lovecat way), you should check out my first book Love Is The Killer App: How To Win Business And Influence Friends.

I highly recommend these two books on the subject of Neworking:

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. This is a really easy to read yet highly tipful book from one of the best networkers EVER in corporate America. And he’s a cool dude you’d like to know too.

Masters Of Networking (a collection of great articles)