Seriously Improve Your Networking Skills with 5 steps

No matter what profession you’re in, networking is the fuel that accelerates success. Not only is it useful for learning directly from individuals you meet, but the benefits of association and growing your own authority are just as powerful.

Related: How to Start a Conversation With Strangers at a Networking Event

For some of us, the word networking can leave a bad taste in our mouths. Many of us aren’t sure where to start, what to say when we connect with someone or how to maintain that relationship. Although I truly believe there’s an art and science to networking and building authentic relationships, I’m going to distill what I’ve learned over the past few years. So, here is my no-BS guide to networking.

Stage 1: Mindset

Before you think about networking, remove the word “working” from your system. We hear people talking about putting on their “networking game,” and I can’t help but wonder how many showers they’ll need to take afterward to rid themselves of the inauthenticity. It’s likely that the people you’re trying to reach get approached by dozens, if not hundreds, of people just like you; and it’s not difficult for them to weed out the people who are “putting on a face.”

The best networking comes from genuine relationships, not a business card exchange. No matter whom you’re trying to build a relationship with, treating that person as a friend rather than a business contact will take you much further with the relationship. So, think about how you would approach a potential friend. Find something you have in common with, keep it light, make jokes, and above all, show that you care.

Stage 2: The destination

Doing something for the sake of doing it is rarely a good idea, nor is it a good use of your time. It’s the old analogy of having a fully gassed car without a final destination to head toward.

As many of you may already know, I’m a big believer in goal setting and focusing on pouring energy into accomplishing the stated goal. What is your dream job? How do you envision your future? What do you need to be doing to be the most fulfilled, happy and driven version of you? Write down what your goal is for five years from now. Then write down what goal you need to hit one year from now in order to get you closer to your five-year goal. Finally, write down what goal you need to hit 90 days from now in order to get you closer to your one-year goal.

For example: Let’s say your goal is to make $1 million in five years. You would need a vehicle, whether that is your own business, investments or something financially viable to get you to your destination. In this case, your goal one year from now might be to have your business launched and to hit $5,000 per month in sales.

So, what would you need to do in the next 90 days in order to hit $5,000 per month in your new business, one year from now? It might be finding the right partner with a complementary skill sets, or acquiring your first paying customer in the next 90 days.

5-year goal: Make $1 million
1-year goal: Hit $5,000/month ($60,000 per year) in sales with new business
90-day goal: Get your first paying customer

Now, it’s time to write down your goals. Yes, physically write them!

Stage 3: The map

Now that you have your final destination for five years from now, including focused, short-term goals to get you there, design your map. Keith Ferrazzi has a powerful strategy called the Networking Action Plan (NAP), which he explains in Never Eat Alone, to connect your networking strategy with your goals.

Step 1 is to write down your goals and final destination (which you completed in Stage 2). Step 2 is to look at the three goals you have written down. Then, next to each of your goals, write down three people who will either kickstart or accelerate your goal. These could be people you are already connected with, who are second-degree connections from you, or people you have no connections to.

Examples of who your top 3 could be include mentors or advisors, clients who will advocate for you, investors who believe in your vision, team members who may be co-founders or key hires, a boss or manager who could propel you to a raise or strategic position within your organization or superconnectors that will connect you with any of the above, to build your network.

If you’re looking to start a company, the three people could be a potential partner, an investor and a potential client. For a best-selling book, the three could be your agent, promotional partners or editor.

It’s important to invest some time doing thorough research to be confident that the three people are essential in helping you accomplish your goals faster.

Stage 4: Building a human connection

Hw do you foster a real connection when you speak with someone — whether it’s on Skype or on the phone or in-person? Personally, I think it boils down to these factors:

  • Ask insightful questions (to get the other person thinking). You can know a lot about a person by the quality of the questions he or she asks. Tony Robbins often shares that the quality of your questions correlates to the quality of your life.
  • Ask better questions, receive better answers. Peter Thiel challenges us to ask ourselves: “How do we accomplish our 10-year goals in six months?” By asking better questions when you’re speaking with someone, you not only put yourself in a category of someone that thinks differently, but you force the other person to think in a new way that helps him or her grow.
  • Pay attention (as if your life depended on it). This may come naturally for some people, or be extremely difficult for others. In our smartphone era, paying attention is a demanded “skill” many of us lack. How many times have you spoken with someone who is constantly fidgeting, looking around or interrupting your every sentence? By simplying maintaining eye contact, listening attentively and responding with relevant questions, you’re separating yourself from the rest of the pack and are well on your way to fostering a genuine relationship.

Listen. Ask good questions. Repeat.

Stage 5: Superconnecting

The fastest way to grow your own network is to introduce two people who can benefit from each another. As simple as this strategy sounds, it’s one you hardly see most people do. When’s the last time someone deliberately went out of his or her way to introduce you to someone after listening to your struggles? If you’re the rare breed that has experienced this, you’ve met a superconnector. 

With over three billion people online today, it’s increasingly difficult to separate the fog from the light, and the role of superconnectors will become increasingly important to make that distinction. Here are few of the most powerful ways to become a superconnector yourself.

  • Don’t keep score. This is by far the key difference between superconnectors and everyone else. Superconnectors have an abundance mentality, and they’re always willing to give, connect and share.
  • Make friends, not “contacts.” In other words, value quality over quantity. Put away your business cards, and form genuine friendships with people you meet. I force myself to never talk about business in the first encounter with someone, unless I have to. It’s 10 times more valuable to develop connections with five quality people at an event than 50 “contacts” whose names you won’t remember.
  • Connect other superconnectors. Do you know two connectors who could benefit from meeting? Have they already met? Introducing two superconnectors will be the easiest connection you make because: They are naturally friendly and most likely will have friends in common. And you’ll not only help others further their goals, but will come to mind for them, for future potential connections that will benefit you.
  • Interview people. This may be one of the fastest ways to grow your network, if done strategically. You could do this in the context of a research paper, book or, my personal favorite, a podcast. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with the likes of Eric RiesAdam Braun, Jason Fried, Gary Vaynerchuk and others who would have been difficult to connect with had I not started #SKIM Live.
  • Follow-up. This is the missing step we all forget to do. But following up to see how the introduction went, or randomly following up a few months later with no agenda will not only help you maintain your connections, but foster the relationship to a different level. In a world of take take take, being able to show that you care about someone as a friend will put you in a whole different category with any of your connections.

Can you think of someone you need to follow up with right now?

Advertisements

Become a Content Marketing Productivity Master: 21 Tips from the #CMWorld Community

  • 1. Become a Content Marketing PRODUCTIVITY MASTER: 21 TIPS FROM THE #CMWORLD COMMUNITY
  • 2. We can’t stop time. But we can learn to use it more effectively. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Tired of never getting through your to–do list? If so… you’re in the same boat as practically every content marketer we talk to. Fundamentally, the secret to feeling more productive is to have a plan for what you need to accomplish and stick to it. It’s easier said than done, for sure; but by implementing efficiency techniques, streamlining certain processes, and taking advantage of a few time-tested tricks, content marketers can increase their output while reducing the frustration, stress, and misdirected efforts that can often take them off track. Take a look at 21 of the most helpful tips the #CMWorld community had to offer during our recent Twitter chat on productivity. 2

111

  • 3. 33 It’s counterproductive to waste time on content that isn’t going to help your business achieve its goals. To maximize productivity, start with a strategic analysis of how relevant and valuable the effort is likely to be for both your brand and your audience. Mike Myers says he uses a simple flow chart to determine where content marketing will be helpful (and where it won’t) because, like with dessert, it can be hard to know when to say no.  I start by asking: “How relevant is the project to my market — i.e., clients and prospects?” —Roger C. Parker  Make strategic decisions. Know when something requested won’t add enough value. Prioritize, and suggest alternatives when possible. —Danalynne Wheeler LEAD WITH YOUR STRENGTHS — AND YOUR STRATEGY1
  • 4. 4 FOLLOW YOUR STRATEGY WITH A PROACTIVE PLAN2 Every strategic idea needs a plan to bring it to life. With advanced preparation, you can take some of the guesswork out of the content creation process, making it easier to stay focused and productive.  Successful content marketers choose topics in advance. They identify themes they can create content on in the upcoming months. Planning is key. —Roger C. Parker  Plan what to say & how. Create a title optimized to catch readers & search engines. —Joanie Eppinga
  • 5. 55 Content creation is as much an art as a science. Though you should definitely have a plan, it’s also helpful to be flexible and leave room in your process to take advantage of inspiration when it strikes.  Make notes all the time. They’re the seeds of content to come. You can’t harvest tomorrow unless you plant today. —George Stenitzer  Balance sticking with strategy (and saying no to what doesn’t fit) with the potential to explore new possibilities. Always keep the “learning mindset.” —Anne Janzer LEAVE ROOM FOR THE SPARK OF CREATIVITY3

222

  • 6. 6 FOCUS ON AUDIENCE NEEDS4 Content is created to spur an audience to action, so your productivity ultimately depends on how well your efforts are is suited to meeting that goal. Keep this in mind and you will never waste valuable time on efforts that miss the mark.  First, you have to understand your market and their needs. This provides focus. —Roger C. Parker  It’s all about knowing your audience. Knowing whom to talk to directs your decisions about what you do and don’t need to say. —Adam P. Newton  Outsider, a New York agency, suggests that content creators ask questions like, “Does this provide value to my audience?” “Would they share it?” Viewing your content from the audience’s perspective will help you figure out which projects may not work — even if they seemed like a good idea to you at first.
  • 7. 77 It’s hard to be productive if our minds are being pulled in a million different directions. Even small side projects can wind up derailing productivity in a major way, so it’s helpful to determine right from the outset what’s worth your immediate attention, what can be put on the back burner for a while, and what can be indefinitely postponed.  Roger C. Parker recommends starting out by asking, “How urgently do my customers or prospects need the information?” Then ask, “Is the project practical for me at the present time?” After that, if a client asks me to do a different task, I ask: “Which of our current tasks do you want me to put aside?”  Ronda Bowen says that looking at past performance of content helps, too. If you know a certain topic tanks in terms of page views, there’s no reason to continue to create content on that topic. SET PRIORITIES, AND DON’T GET SIDETRACKED5
  • 8. 8 BUDGET YOUR TIME… AND USE IT EFFECTIVELY6 Effective time management means devoting adequate attention to your content without allowing your efforts to take over your entire working life.  Successful content marketers run marathons, not races. Time management is essential. Manage your time as carefully as you would manage your money. —Roger C. Parker  Set aside blocks of time to draft your content without being interrupted by meetings or chats. —Sarah A. Parker  While planning is important, Mael Roth advises that sometimes you need to set yourself on “get it done” mode: “At some point it’s ‘learn by doing.’”333
  • 9. 99 Just as deadlines can create a sense of urgency for specific content projects, keeping a calendar of those projects can help you mentally plan and prioritize your day-to-day efforts — and hold yourself accountable for their completion.  Scheduling is key for productivity. —Cara Shannon  Lisa Masiello recommends being methodical and keeping a calendar, as she feels it’s easy to become distracted without a schedule.  Social media analytics vendor Union Metrics suggests drawing up a quarterly content calendar and working backwards from the deadlines you set in order to ensure time for drafts/your approval process. KEEP A CONTENT CALENDAR7
  • 10. 10 KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO8 No one likes to have to turn down a content request from a client or supervisor, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil in order to make good progress on current priorities, continually deliver on your content’s promises, and maintain your sanity.  Strategy is key. If a project doesn’t align, it’s not worth your time. —Angela Hursh  I cringe when clients try to pump out as much content as possible and skimp on quality. A content effort should be more than a checklist item. —Brandon Seymour  Many times marketing should say no to change. Don’t let your boredom of a tagline/ topic divert the oil tanker. —Nick Kellet  If there isn’t a compelling story [in a particular content idea], I find the exit. —Kip Meacham
  • 11. 1111 One of the easiest ways to become more productive is to get rid of repetitive or unnecessarily time-consuming tasks that are bogging down your efforts and replace them with more efficient techniques. Even if it takes some extra time to implement and adjust to the change, streamlining your processes often pays dividends in terms of productivity over the long-term.  I implemented a written request form for content projects. [This] creates accountability & saves me from 20 [rounds of] revisions. —Danielle Poupore  I use Mindjet’s MindManager to organize ideas, keep track of projects, and easily track influencers and ideas. And every content marketer needs a graphics program to create images for blog posts and social media. —Roger C. Parker  We use a lot of distraction-free writing tools to encourage the process, as well as an editorial calendar to plan it all out. —ClearVoice  Erika Heald asserts that collaboration tools like RedboothHQ, Kapost, Evernote, and Google Drive are key to her daily productivity. CREATE EFFICIENCIES WITH NEW TOOLS AND STREAMLINED PRODUCTION PROCESSES 9
  • 12. 12 FREE YOUR MIND10 Productivity isn’t always about going “heads down” into a project. Instead, experiment to discover what ideas and processes work best for you.  Stay curious and open to new innovations and marketing concepts. Set aside time to ‘study’ those who are doing it right. —Crowd Content  A large part of marketing productivity comes from understanding the machine of the internet and the psychology of people —Nick Kellet  We write down all of our ideas before dismissing any. —Kitterman Marketing
  • 13. 1313 Good writing is just as much “nurture” as it is “nature.” Set good habits right from the start of your content creation efforts and you’re practically guaranteed to become more productive as you progress.  Cultivate the habit of short, frequent working sessions rather than long, tiring sessions. —Roger C. Parker  Our best productivity tips are early mornings, strong coffee, and a separate window for social media, to avoid distraction. —Outsider (a NYC agency)  Try working at times when there will be fewer distractions. For example, @SparkerWorks has considered getting started earlier in the day: “Nobody bothers you in the early morning!” —Sarah A. Parker CULTIVATE EFFICIENT WORKING AND WRITING HABITS11CMS (444
  • 14. 14 HOLD YOURSELF TO DEADLINES12 Deadlines help you set clear parameters for your content efforts, and can create a sense of urgency that keeps you focused and on-task during the content creation process.  Deadlines definitely help with productivity! Sometimes it’s hard to get started if there is no goal in sight. —Wyzowl  Consider creating mini-deadlines for the various tasks required for each project. This can help you create a sense of urgency and pace your progress. —Roger C. Parker
  • 15. 1515 Content creation takes dedication. If you want to earn the loyalty of your audience, you must hold yourself accountable for delivering on what you promise — even when the process gets challenging or you run into a stumbling block.  To be a productive writer, make yourself write. Good ideas often come after you’ve gotten started. —Anne Janzer  Every successful content marketer I know reads and writes daily. —Patrick Hayslett PRACTICE SELF-DISCIPLINE13
  • 16. 16 AVOID BEATING YOURSELF UP OR GETTING FRUSTRATED14 It’s not easy for writers to create something that’s “just right,” so it’s natural to stumble with phrasing or get stuck on an idea once in a while. When the words just aren’t flowing, don’t be afraid to take your time and clear your mind — and know that you can always make changes down the line.  Give yourself permission for that bad first draft. Don’t edit as you write — it will only slow you down. —Ronda Bowen  If something’s really not working, give yourself permission to step away. Come back to it tomorrow. Work on something else. —Sarah A. Parker
  • 17. 1717 A trick some writers use to structure a content effort is to write the ending first, then craft the rest of the story so that it leads to the intended conclusion. Starting each project with your desired results in mind can reduce the need for time consuming revisions and rewrites throughout the process.  Develop your positioning first so that the content will communicate the desired marketing messages. —Samuel J. Scott  I’ve begun asking project requesters to tell me how they plan to use content. No sense making something to sit in a drawer. —Danielle Poupore START WITH YOUR DESIRED RESULTS AND PURPOSE AND WORK BACKWARDS15
  • 18. 18 MAKE CONTENT CREATION PART OF YOUR ROUTINE16 Just like good habits make good writers, regular routines can help those writers mentally prepare for creating quality content—and for staying the course, even when other priorities start to compete for their time and attention.  Show up. Turning up at your computer consistently is the best way to be successful. —Ronda Bowen  Brainstorm, outline, write, write, write, proof, have someone else proof, edit, & promote! If you get stuck, take a break, and then go back. —Aya Fawzy  I look for easy parts of the post to write — such as lists or easy topics — to build momentum. —Roger C. Parker555
  • 19. 1919 If you find yourself working on a complex topic with a lot of ground to cover, or are struggling to find the right flow for your discussion, try creating a simple outline first. Organizing your thoughts in this way can help you see which points are essential and which ones can be left out, as well as how to structure the conversation in the most logical way.  Map the journey. Know where you’re starting, ending and [where] you’ll stop at along the way. —Jeremy Bednarski  First, I take notes by hand & organize a rough structure. Last thing is proofreading. Then proofreading again. —Danielle Poupore  Start your writing with an outline. Then write everything down as quickly as you can. Lastly, edit, edit, edit. —Heidi Cohen  After outlining what you are going to write and why, just get words on paper/screen. Don’t edit, just do a “brain dump.” —Traci Browne NOT SURE WHAT TO WRITE? TRY CREATING AN OUTLINE17
  • 20. 20 USE THEMES TO BUILD A SERIES OF RELATED CONTENT18 Another way to handle complex topics is to break them up into small, manageable bites. Start by coming up with a list of relevant themes, and then create a series of related content pieces that you can that you can distribute on a regular basis.  Series are about brevity. Series turn complex ideas into snacks. Series also multiply the SEO value of one big idea. —Nick Kellet  A series can be a great way to get started. It gives you a theme and a goal to build off of. Feels less daunting every week. —Kitterman Marketing  A blog series can help with productivity in that (hopefully) you can map it all out ahead of time. —Jeremy Bednarski  In terms of productivity, having an established series is really helpful to me. It’s great for when I’m stumped on topics. —Christina Grieves666
  • 21. 2121 Content doesn’t always have to be original to be powerful. At times, it’s more productive to use the content you’ve painstakingly created and focus your time on ways to repackage it in a new way, or for a new platform.  @crestodina writes, “You need to view content as atoms you can recycle & rearrange in different ways.” —Roger C. Parker  It’s just so easy to do. So many resources and potential for data and info overload. Curate, collate, focus. —Jacob Henenberg  Break up mega-topics into edible chunks. Use customer questions to guide series topics. —George Stenitzer REPURPOSE THE WHEEL, DON’T REINVENT IT19
  • 22. 22 KNOW WHAT TO SPIN OFF OR RECYCLE, RATHER THAN REJECT20 If an idea starts to lead you in a different direction, don’t switch gears right away. Instead, tuck it away it somewhere safe, and then come back to it after you’ve finished the content effort you are currently working on. If the new concept still seems valid when you revisit it, you now have a ready-made topic on hand for your next content effort.  I’m a narrow-minded content creator. If anything remotely veers from my main idea, it goes in queue to become its own piece. —Patrick Hayslett
  • 23. 2323 When all else fails… you are probably working too hard. Sometimes it’s best to just step away and take some time to clear your mind before returning to your content creation. You may even come up with a new idea or two when you give yourself a break, rather than trying to force creativity when you just aren’t “feeling it.”  When I’m finished, I put the post aside overnight. I need to proof it from a fresh perspective. —Roger C. Parker  Even a 5-minute break can help. Ever do find-a-word puzzles? Great for improving visual acuity. —Joanie Eppinga  Step away & do something physical that you’ll see immediate results from: Clean a coffee cup, wipe down a counter, stretch. —Sarah A. Parker TAKE BREAKS TO AVOID MENTAL FATIGUE21
  • 24. 24 THANKS FOR READING! Want more ways to increase your productivity without losing sight of your priorities? Download our collection of useful templates and checklists to make the content marketing process easier. And don’t forget to join our #CMWorld Twitter chats every Tuesday at 12 Eastern to learn from our fabulous content marketing community and share your own tips for success. Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is the leading global content marketing education and training organization. CMI teaches enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling. CMI’s Content Marketing World event, the largest content marketing-focused event, is held every September, and Content Marketing World Sydney, every March. CMI also produces the quarterly magazine Chief Content Officer, and provides strategic consulting and content marketing research for some of the best-known brands in the world. CMI is a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Inc. 500 company. Learn how to create a documented content marketing strategy, a key component for improving overall content marketing effectiveness.