Now Is The Time To Build (And Use) Your NetworkAs the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, and more and more businesses are feeling the impact of quarantine, isolation, and shelter-in-place orders, so many of the traditional channels of marketing and promotion have gone away.

This shift is massively reducing the incoming revenue of almost all businesses, big and small. Everyone is going to need to change up what they’re doing to adapt to this in order to keep the roof over not only their heads, but the heads of their business.

This is especially true at the ittybiz level – there’s no big bailouts for us, unfortunately. So we’re going to have to use every tool at our disposal to keep money flowing – even if it’s in smaller quantities than we’re used to.

This is where networking comes in – and for you, it matters now more than ever.

If you’ve already listened to the Emergency Turnaround Clinic recordings (they’re free, so check them out), you’ll have already heard a lot about using what you currently have, and using it to the utmost level.

Even if your network is small, it’s still a seed that can be tended and grown to become something bigger over time.

And while the strategies in the Emergency Turnaround Clinic will help you in getting the most out of the network you have right now, we’re all in this for the long haul.

We all need to be thinking about the future as well as the present. We have to balance our focus on both. Even if it’s 90% present and 10% future, any seeds you can plant right now will bear fruit you’ll need in the upcoming 6-12 months, and beyond.

Your network represents a source of untapped opportunity that you’re going to need in both the short-term and long-term future.

In the best of times, people can find it intimidating to actively build their networks. So it stands to reason that it might feel the same in the worst of times.

But sometimes, facing a crisis can bring out the strongest, bravest versions of ourselves, and that’s what we all need to connect with right now.Click To Tweet

So over the next few posts, I’m going to go through some of the things that you can do to start building – and using – your personal network starting immediately. (Subscribe if you want updates as the series unfolds.)

Here’s where we all can start – by making a list of what we have, and what we want, in terms of our network.

You can approach networking in two ways: Either do it organically, on the fly, or do it with a plan you make ahead of time.

The organic approach works well if you’re already very social and – truth be told – already doing it anyway. People who use the organic approach are already building their network reactively – they’re connecting with people randomly, and building up those connections as they appear in front of them.

For people starting from scratch – or who haven’t actively networked in a while – it’s a bit different. If that’s you, then you’re going to need to make some level of plan, even if it’s a baby plan, and work that intentionally to start strengthening and expanding your network.

And over time, if you do this, you’ll actually move into the organic mode, because you’ll be connecting with enough people that you can simply react and respond to the people you’re interacting with, and it will pick up it’s own steam.

So for all of you who are starting cold on the networking front, here are three initial steps you can take today to get that ball in motion.

1: Make your initial list of strong connections.

Strong connections are the people in your network that you already have a solid relationship with, and that you can connect with immediately.

These may be people you talk to frequently, or they can even be people who you haven’t talked to in forever, but your bond is strong enough that you can always get their attention.

Naomi likes to refer to these as people who, “no matter what, will always take your call”. Whether you call them, text them, connect with them on social media or email, you’re pretty much guaranteed a response.

So that’s where you can start – make yourself a list of those people. The strong connections you have in the business sphere who will respond to your communications from the get-go.

(You can also make a list of these people for your life, as well. It can be pretty soothing to realize just how many people you could call on for a favor in a time of need.)

2. Make your initial list of weak connections.

Next you’re going to make a list of weak connections. These are the people that you technically know, or who know you, but the connection itself is pretty tenuous.

Maybe you met them at a conference sometime, or you were in a class with them, or you talked to them once or twice on social media. They’ll remember you, but it may take a little reminding.

These are people who need a little extra connection with to form a meaningful bond. But you’re not starting from zero.

What we’re going to do with those people is nurture that tiny seed so that it can grow into something heartier, and more robust. Some of those weak connections will become strong very quickly, and others may take a while.

So your next list is going to be these weak connections, and an easy place to start is to look at your strong connections and branch out from there.

For example, if a particular blogger is a strong connection, and you’ve occasionally interacted with one of their colleagues on social media, that’s a weak connection that can go on this list.

(Again, you can do the same for your life. I’ve couch surfed many a time on the sufferance of a friend-of-a-friend. Weak connections can save the day more often than you realize.)

3. Make your initial list of new connections.

These will be the people you don’t have any connection with yet, but would like to incorporate into your network either because they have value to you, or you know that you can provide value to them.

That’s a critical thing to keep in mind during networking – it’s give-and-take, not “take”. The most successful networkers give freely as they can, because… well, it’s just a good thing to do. So consider that strongly as you move forward. Generosity gets rewarded. Givers get.

A very easy way to start this list is to look at your strong connections and branch out. Who can your strong connections introduce you to?

Another place to start is to look at what you want out of your network. If you’re looking to break into the podcasting circuit, and you have zero connections there, who do you want to get to know?

That’s your final networking list – the brand-new people that you want to begin incorporating into your existing network. Start working on that list today.

(And again, you can apply this to your life. We’re all in flux, and we’re going to need to know people in different arenas, at the financial level, the emotional support level, the social level, and so on. Meeting new people is going to be an asset for all of us.)

From a networking standpoint, you’re currently looking at the tip of the iceberg – there’s so much more that’s available under the surface.

Because we haven’t had to rely as heavily on our networks in the past, all of us haven’t realized just how many connections we have, and how many resources and skills are at our disposal right now.

It’s like looking at the tip of the iceberg. We only see what’s poking up over the surface, and we think that represents the whole. But in reality, once you start seeing how deep your connections go – and how far they can be extended – you’ll realize that you have a lot more support and connection than you imagined.

So make those networking lists – and check back here for updates.

These three lists are your place to start.

If you’d like to be updated on future posts in this networking series then get on the IttyBiz mailing list. (There are some freebies in there for you as well!)

And connect with me on Twitter! You can grow your network by one person right now. :)

Talk to you soon,

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