Do you want to stand out against the competition? Is that competition another company in your industry or another individual?

Your personal network is crucial, an established relationship can help you stand out against your competitor.

personal network

Some might consider social media ‘the key to networking’. But just the other day I was having a conversation with my 24 year old son, who although very active in social media, recognizes the craving for face-to-face interaction. As human beings our physical and emotional needs cannot be met with technology alone. We have an innate need to connect both personally and professionally, in person, face to face. Personal networking, known as ‘in person networking’ or ‘offline networking’ is still the best form of relationship building and the best way to build your personal network. Certainly complement or augment the face to face with other forms of on-line marketing for a well rounded networking platform.

Networking can be defined as building relationships BEFORE you need them. The world can be a daunting place when you immediately need something and have no idea who to call. Consider the idea of having a few friends, colleagues or friends in business that you could call for their advice, recommendations or suggestions. This personal network makes the NEED so much easier to handle. Facebook and LinkedIn have become a great tool to ask for a broad recommendation from your ‘friends’. But if mastered correctly, building your personal network can make the difference between a good recommendation and a great recommendation. We’ve all heard the term, people do business with people they know, like and trust.

The term ‘networking’ might be a buzz word, but we’ve been doing it for centuries. We listened to our fathers who, when presented by a friend’s dilemma to source a good roofer, painter or  hardware item, were happy to set up their friend with ‘Bob’, who would take care of them. Their personal network was established and grew by the friends and acquaintances they knew who could help each other.

We’ve done it ourselves, we recommend a good hairdresser, seamstress, Sally at the clothing store we love, Sue at the shoe store we love.

You build a personal network without thinking. Think a bit more strategically about how you can build your personal network. Your personal network should be a win/win for both of you – think about ways you can help others and how others might help you.

It’s time consuming to compile your databases but it’s worth it. It will help you streamline and target your approach to those you want to reach out to. Put your contacts into categories to help you streamline. MS Excel works great for this.

Here are 4 categories you might want to consider:

Your Entire Database: your entire reach – everyone you’ve had contact with – your Rolodex (for those of us old enough to know what a Rolodex is!), Twitter, Facebook, email, people we’ve met, phone, etc)

Your Personal Network: your business network, friends and family, or specific groups. But be careful, this list should not be over a few hundred; the determining factor is “would they immediately return your phone call”.

Your Inner Circle: who would give you honest feedback without fear of offending you. Might be in the range of 20-50 people depending on how big your personal network is.

Your Advisory Board: these are your go-to people. A small group of 5+ people. You are particularly close to these people and they will give you honest advice, opinions and clarity when asked.

At the end of the day, you feel most comfortable interacting with people you like, who make you feel good, make you feel comfortable and are fun to be with. Not everyone can be THAT person, it takes practice… but try to be that person for others who are feeling uncomfortable with networking.

Build your personal network, be strategic. Remember that others are trying to be build their personal networks too and be courteous in their exploration of you. Enjoy the process.

Deb_r2Deb Alcadinho is the owner of Your Brand Power and Westshore Women’s Business Network (WWBN). She works with business and professional women to develop their personal brands to help them gain their competitive edge and stand out in a crowded marketplace, increasing revenues and their branding. WWBN provides a networking platform, training and business development for business women to connect, inspire, learn, grow and succeed.