Networking? Yes thanks. But then?
They pop up everywhere: deep in the pocket of the jacket I wore at the last Exhibition, or collecting dust in a far corner of my desk. This is how end up the business cards I have been gathering when, following the marketing gurus, I committed myself to networking.
Obviously none of these contacts was useful or even used. What happened? I probably ran into one of the 4 "beyond networking mistakes" (or more than one!)
Death by prospect
Collecting "contacts" indiscriminately is meaningless. More: it is counterproductive. You can't be everything to everyone. If I want to be of interest to "everyone" I will end up not being relevant to anyone.
So? Contacts must be carefully selected. Around 80% of my profits come from a small number of my "good" customers. Therefore I'm not looking for "customers" but for "good customers".
That means the customers for whom I could be a good supplier i.e. the prospects for which I have a distinctive character. Aim for them and forget the others!
Lists as a corporate asset
A good list of contacts (clients and prospects) must be valued as a corporate asset, possibly the main asset. It should be valued and depreciated into a balance sheet as you'd do with a machine tool!
This wealth should be spread across your company. Do you need a CRM? You could do with an Excel sheet? Doesn't matter. But shun a silos approach! There shouldn't be a "Marketing list" different from a "Sales list", rather a shared database. And this list should be managed, updated, extended.
Stop & Go
Showing up once in a while is counter-productive too. To build good relationships it is useful to mantain a certain continuity. Every company has its own rhythm and this rhythm must be kept.
Creativity vs improvisation
So, a good communication strategy has two pillars: continuity and targeting. On these basis you could define formal and content guidelines to ensure consistency and recognition and define how to respond to feedbacks (whether positive or negative) with the timing dictated by the medium.
It is always late to start. But postponing is even worse. A strategy allows you to do more with less. And to clean up your desk!