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Michael Port
Michael Port

When most people think of networking, they think of it as something you do to meet new people. However, might I suggest definingnetworking as ‘developing deeper relationships with people you already know' and using the term direct outreach to mean ‘meeting people that you don't yet know but would like to know'?

Of course, ultimately, it doesn't really matter which words you use but, rather, that you make a distinction between meeting knew people and staying connected with the people you already know.

If you make this important distinction, it can help you stay focused on each area specifically and deliberately. To that end, there are four simple but meaningful daily action steps that will build your network and get you booked solid.

Let's start with DIRECT OUTREACH.

Again, this is about meeting the people you do not yet know but would like to know. I am not talking about the Oprah's of the world, although hanging out with Oprah would certainly be good for business. No, I am talking about the people that are immediately relevant to you. People in your industry who can open doors for you, people that you can actually, and relatively easily, get to.

Start by creating your List of 20. This list includes 20 people that you'd like to know but do not yet know. For example:

• If you want to get booked to speak, you might include specific meeting planners.
• If you want to get booked to write articles, you might include specific editors.
• If you want to meet well-known bloggers or authors, you might include them.
• Or, maybe, if there are specific potential referral partners that you'd like to meet, you might include them.
(Notice the use of the world “specific.”)

Put these people on your List of 20. Of course, if you don't have 20 people who come to mind right now, just start with three. But eventually you'll grow it and keep it at 20. Why? Keeping your list at 20 ensures that it's a large enough so as to keep your focus expansive, yet small enough that you're able to focus on each person specifically.

What do you do with this list? Simple. Reach out to one person on this list each day. NOT to ask for a favor or to meet for coffee but to express appreciation for them and their work.

• Write a blog post about them or comment on a blog post that they wrote.
• Retweet a few of their Tweets in one day or Tweet about them or to them.
• Even better, write a short (under 5 lines) email or handwritten note to them telling them why they rock.
The key is not asking anything of them.

One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill. He said, “It's a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” I believe building relationships is the same way.

So, if there is someone you'd like to get to know and they have a higher professional status then you, don't call them up and ask to meet them for a cup of coffee. You're probably not (yet) relevant to them unless they have some prior connection to you. Remember, “Only one link in the chain of destiny at a time.”

After you reach out to the person on the top of the list, put them on the bottom. So, the person that you reached out today goes from number one to number twenty. The person who was number twenty becomes number nineteen and the person who was number two advances to the number one spot.

Then, tomorrow, reach out to the next person at the top of that list. Do this every single business day. This way, each day you are connecting with, at least, one person on your List of 20. And, over the course of one month, you'll have connected with every person on your List of 20.

How long should this take you? About 5 minutes a day.

Of course, if you develop a strong connection right away and your relationship starts to build quickly then you take them off your List of 20 and add them to what I call your Network of 90.

This is where your NETWORKING comes into play (developing deeper relationships with the people you already know).

The reason I suggest you keep a Network of 90 is because it will help you focus on a specific, managable, number of relavant contacts. Again, these are people you already know (or have met) that you'd like to stay in touch with and continue to build stronger relationships. If you focus on the most relevant ninety people in your network along with the twenty people on your List of 20, then you stay below Dunbar's number of 150 which is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.

You don't need to know a million people, just the right people who can put business opportunities in front of you. Your job is to earn that business.

Now you've got your Network of 90. And, as you might remember from the beginning of this article, I suggested that you do four things each day to build your network and get booked solid.

The first was to reach out to one person on your List of 20 each day. The second, third, and fourth daily action steps will bring you closer to the people in your Network of 90.

Introduce two people in your network who do not yet know each other but might find each other relvant (personally or professionally) and appreciate the introduction.

You might have two people in your Network of 90 who are scratch golfers and they live close to each other. Golfers are always looking for a 4th but they want somebody at their own level. So you might introduce them.

If you are nervous about whether or not you should make the introduction, you might ask each one individually, “I would love to introduce you to a good friend of mine who is also a scratch golfer, would you like me to?”

Or, maybe you know two people that are in the publishing industry or two people in the real estate industry. Both would present excellent opportunities for making an introduction.

Generally, business owners and executives want to continue to move forward in their careers and, to do so, they know it's essential for them to meet new people. As a result, 9.9 times out of 10 they are going to say “Oh, yes, please do introduce me. Thank you!”

Note: when you make the introduction, share only professional, public contact information unless it's requested that you share private contact information instead.

Next, each day, share some useful or helpful information with at least one person in your Network of 90. The easiest way to do this is by reading articles in online magazines, journals, and blogs every day, the ones that are most relevant to your network.

When you see an article that is relevant to one of the people in your network, send it to them via email and say, “Hey, Jennifer, I just read this article and I immediately thought of you. It was about ‘this' and I know you're very interested in ‘that' so I thought you might find it valuable. Have you read it? What do you think?” And, now you can get into a conversation with her about the subject matter and, as a result, develop your relationship.

Let's recap quickly on what we've learned thus far. Each day:

• Reach out to one person you do not yet know on your List of 20.
• Introduce two people in your Network of 90.
• Share some information that is useful to one person in your Network of 90.
And, finally, fourth, share compassion with somebody in your network every day by calling or writing them. If you get their voicemail simply say, “I was thinking about you and I know that you are really working hard on your business right now. I just wanted to say if you ever need any support I am here because I just have so much respect for what you are doing.” Or, if you know somebody is going through a tough time, sometimes the most relevant thing to do is to just go and sit with them.

We make the assumption that networking is quid pro quo and that our reputation is based only on the work we do, but it's not. It's based on who we are and how we take care of the people around us.

In conclusion, if you do these four things every single day, and if you are relevant to the people that you want to build better relationships with, then you are going to be top of mind when they think of someone who provides the kind of products and services that you do.

This is pretty simple to do, isn't it?