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Networking as Intentional Relationships
by Lida Citroen

We all have contact networks – friends, family, acquaintances, alumni and people we work. How many of those contacts, however, are intentionally there because you identified their direct value to your life and business? Here is a straight forward and practical approach to developing, nurturing and maintaining an intentional network of key contacts. As you learn to network, you will find it becomes second nature. No longer are you pressured to “only meet decision makers at an event” but you’re open to people of all walks of life who can influence your opportunities for success!

Why Should We Network?
Your brand is your reputation, your legacy and how you are known. When customers or potential customers think your business, what feelings do they have? Are you a trusted source for financial information or a reliable resource for training and education? Are you the realtor who shows compassion and empathy to clients? Is yours the restaurant where people feel “at homeapostrophe?

Controlling and maintaining a desired reputation is critical to being afforded positive opportunities. If you developed a reputation as a business that’s hard to work with, or doesn’t respond to customer needs, the impact to your financial future can be devastating! Crafting and then maintaining a strong brand value (as a trusted source, for instance) opens the door to future business opportunities.

One way we live our brand is through networking. In business, we interact with people daily – from the front desk staff, to colleagues, clients, prospects and supervisors. When we leave work, and attend networking events, dinners, parties, business meetings, conferences and other events, we are amongst people looking to meet others who may influence their futures. It is important that these people see you as a positive reflection on your business in order to see you as potentially relevant and valuable to their business.

Who Should You Network With?
Instead of sizing everyone you meet up as “potential client or not,apostrophe consider three groups of networking categories: 1. Decision makers (those who may directly give you work/contracts/leads); 2. Information Sources (those with direct insight into industries, trends and companies); and 3. Cheerleaders (who will be your references, vouch for you and lend support when needed).

Having these category options removes the pressure to only talk to key decision makers. Perhaps the decision maker’s secretary is a good contact? She has direct access to her boss! How about someone with deep knowledge of commercial real estate? That person could be very valuable when you prepare a proposal to a new client in that industry. As you enter new names into your database (in Outlook, ACT, or even Excel), organize or “flagapostrophe them in such a way that you can assign them a category for tracking, marketing and follow-up.

Tips For Keeping Your Network Strong
As with any important relationship, nurturing and managing a two-way benefit is critical. Don’t ask more than you give. If you request an introduction to a company, show genuine appreciation that is personal and appropriate. Hand written notes are always a good start! Also, be sure you know how you can help your contact – look for ways to add value to their business, offer referrals and provide resources. Become someone they rely on.

The Importance of Being Genuine
The value of your brand will guide your marketing strategies. Networking should certainly be included, but the way you network (intentionally) should be genuine to who you are and the reputation you are creating. Your brand tells your audience what they can expect from you and how you will be in a relationship with them. It is impossible to be “everything to everyoneapostrophe and that is why intentional networks of valuable contacts are so vital.

About the author:

Lida Citroën has been helping businesses and professionals uncover and develop their true brand value for more than 20 years. As principal of LIDA360, a turnkey marketing communications firm, she helps her clients unleash their unique brand qualities and assets to produce effective marketing programs. Her methodology and approach are both innovative and practical, and she is recognized for her contagious passion for quality.

For more information on LIDA360, please visit http://www.lida360.com/. Lida can be reached at Lida@LIDA360.com or 720.840.3388.