Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Strategy for Building a Solid, Meaningful, and Relevant Network

What Is Networking?

In my own words, networking is the ability to connect with another human being. Through conversation, both parties look for ways to create value as a result of the relationship. In business, networking with the right person could result in a new customer or the identification of a new solution to an existing problem. In our personal life, networking may result in finding a good babysitter or learning a new way to build model airplanes. In the end, the possibilities are endless.

For many of us, networking is nothing new. In fact, you may already have a contact list filled with names and phone numbers. Maybe you even have a desk drawer full of business cards from different people who you want to stay in contact with. For me, this was true. However, I knew that as my list of contacts grew, I was struggling with how to maintain a healthy relationship with so many people.

In Harvey Mackay's book, Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, he explains the importance of maintaining relationships with people because one day you may need to call on them. Surprisingly, Mackay revealed that he has over 12,000 people in his Rolodex and he "touches" them multiple times throughout the year. The idea that he could do that amazed me. If he can do that with 12,000, I can surely do that with my few thousand friends, right?

My Networking Strategies

The Mackay 66

After learning that networking expert, Harvey Mackay, was able to maintain over 12,000 relationships, I wanted to learn how he did it. What did his system look like?

In the beginning, it started as a tip from Mackay's father, who worked in the newspaper industry. His father explained that as you meet a new person, obtain their contact information and record as much information about them as you can. Then, being creative, find a way to stay in contact with them.

Over the years, Mackay took his father's advice and expanded on it with the development of Mackay 66, which is a template of 66 questions that you should know about a customer or individual. Having this information, which ranges from family to lifestyle, is a powerful way to understand a person and what makes them tick. Using Social Media, many of the questions can be filled out even before you have a serious conversation with a person.

Armed with the knowledge provided by Harvey Mackay, where would I keep all of this information? In 2014, a Rolodex is not something you see very often. Second, I had no interest in keeping a paper copy of a questionnaire and thumbing through a filing cabinet to read up on a customer or friend. I needed a place to hold my information. Enter Google Contacts.

Google Contacts

It didn't take long to realize that developing a profile on the people I know was both time consuming and easily overwhelming. The first challenge was finding a place to hold all of this information. The second challenge was having access to the information when I needed it.

After reviewing a number of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, I realized that Google Contacts was powerful enough to hold all of my important information and, because I could access it directly from my mobile phone, it was probably the easiest (and cheapest) solution to use.  

To date, I use Google Contacts to record the following types of information:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone numbers
  • Emails
  • Birthday
  • Family names
  • Anniversary
  • Business title 
  • Company name
  • Notes


In 2016, I transitioned away from entering people directly into Google Contacts in favor of another service called FullContact. The decision was based initially on the limitation around notes. On a couple of occasions, where I recorded a large amount of written notes about a friend, I found that the default Contacts app found on an Android phone had a limit. While I could still add more notes from the Google Contacts website, the mobile app is where I needed the feature most. FullContact, which syncs nicely with Google Contacts, provides a user-friendly mobile app that doesn't limit me in the same way I was limited before.

Along side the flexible notes feature, I also enjoy how FullContact pulls information found on other social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) into my friend's profile. As my contacts update their information (including pictures), I get a notification of the change, offered a chance to review the update, and incorporate the relevant pieces of information.

FullContact does provide a freemium package, which is a great way to test it out. For $5 a month, you can upgrade to the premium package. I upgraded after a month or so and think it's worth the extra few dollars.       

Now that you know what types of information to record and where to save it, the next step was understanding how to use it all. This is where the 5-50-100 Rule comes into play.

The 5-50-100 Rule

By the time I reached the point where I needed a strategy to stay in contact with people, I already had a few thousand friends in my contact list. My social media accounts felt overrun by my inability to "touch" people as often as I wanted to. For a while there, I was only talking with a few friends. How do I strategically reach out to the other 98% and build (or maintain) a relationship with them?

In Judy Robinett's book, How to Be a Power Connector, she introduced the 5-50-100 Rule, which I think is ingenious. Built on the Dunbar Number, which states that humans can only maintain about 150 stable relationships at a time. Beyond that number, tribes and connections begin to fall apart. Using the 150 number as the basis for her rule, Robinett gave me this strategy: 5-50-100. Using three groups, we are to strategically place a small number of "inner circle" connections. 
  • Top 5 - Top five people we contact daily.
  • Key 50 - Key fifty people we contact weekly.
  • Vital 100 - Vital one hundred people we contact monthly.

Putting It All Together

Armed with the tools listed above, this section reveals how I put it all together.

Step 1: Meet Someone New

At some point, we all meet new people. To explain how I use the aforementioned information, let's just start from the beginning. "Hi, I'm Damond Nollan..."

Regardless of how I meet a person, most new relationships begin with a name, job, and hometown. This is typically where I initiate the use of F.O.R.M. to ask the right questions and build rapport. It's an easy first step and you can use it with anyone.

Step 2: Record The Facts

Once I meet someone, I immediately record their basic information into my phone. I often begin with their name, phone, email, a brief note about how we met, who we know, and any other relevant/interesting facts that I may have learned during our conversation.

Then, and this is new, I decide how soon after I reach back out to "touch" them. The time varies based upon the conversation, group, and interest, but in the end, there is always a date. For me, it ranges from the next day (Top 5) all the way up to 3 months. 

It is important to note that recording facts about people is not something you do once. Instead, this step gets revisited often. Imagine how much you already know about a person through conversation, social media updates, and Google searches. It's almost scary to think how much information is out there about us. Individually, it may not seem like much, but when you put it all together, it tells a powerful story.

Step 3: Find a "Next Touch" 

As Harvey Mackay points out in his book, be creative in "touching" people. It doesn't have to be anything huge, just consider ways that you can add value into people's lives and do this often.

For me, I schedule my "Next Touch" based upon the 5-50-100 Rule. If someone does not fall within the inner circle, I make it a point to at least touch them once every 3 months. This means after one year, I would have found a way to touch everyone at least four times.

One way to remind myself to reach back out is through the use of Google Calendar. By connecting Google Contacts and Google Calendar, I can see special dates that were entered into a person's profile on my calendar.

What are some examples of a "Next Touch"? Check out this short list:
  • Send a text 
  • Send a birthday or Christmas card
  • Reach out and say "Hi!" in a Facebook message
  • Stop by their office and give them a "High Five"
  • Go out to lunch
  • Grab coffee and chat for an hour
  • Buy them a gift while on vacation
  • Share interesting articles that align with their interests
  • Introduce them to people 
  • Compliment them on a job well done
  • Leave a sticky note on their computer saying, "Hi!"
As you can tell, the list could go on with great ideas for a "Next Touch." The idea is to invest in others by making regular deposits of value. 

Additional Notes

Since my original publishing on the topic, I have some additional thoughts on networking that may prove beneficial for you.

Networking for Mutual Benefit

Since 2014, I have followed the aforementioned strategies pretty closely. However, during the latter part of 2016, I found that reaching out to people every three months (those outside of my inner circle of 150) was becoming very time-consuming and somewhat unproductive. Additionally, I felt that I was spending a great deal of time trying to connect with the wrong people. When I write the words, "wrong people" I mean people who have no real interest in connecting back, negative people, or people that are not bringing value into my life.

It was at this moment that I sought more clarity to my question, "Who should I be investing my time in?" Not long after, I found the book, Networking for Mutual Benefit by Teddy Burriss.

This book was such an easy read, which I did all in one night, and it addressed many of the issues I was having at that moment.

Inspired by his message, I reached out to Teddy the very next morning and by lunch time we were on the phone talking while he drove to visit family. Talk about generous, this man gave me 35 minutes of his time to ask as many questions as I could come up with. Wow! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

During our extremely valuable time together, he gave me tons of nuggets. Here are just a few:

Protect your's an asset.

Mr. Burriss explained in our opening moments that connecting online is reserved for people he has personally met or built a relationship with. This is a stark difference from what I had previously done at one point of my life where I simply accepted any and all friend requests. While this strategy quickly grew my "numbers" online, it did very little to help me connect with people. I knew nothing about my "friends" and when it came time to engage, we either had nothing in common or had no interest to connect. As a result, I was spending my precious time on trying to engage with the wrong people.

Additionally, it is important to note that your network is one of the most valuable assets you have. Therefore, be careful who you let into your network and be swift about removing the wrong people. Remember, your reputation can be greatly affected by the people you recommend, share, or give access to. 

Build the network on relevant and mutually beneficial connections.

Teddy agreed that we need to build our network. He added that we should accept all "meaningful, relevant, and mutually beneficial connections." 

Maybe I had missed this from the all books I read before, but I assumed that we need to connect with EVERYONE WE MEET. The reality is that we don't have enough time in the day to meaningfully connect with everyone. In fact, we need to do the exact opposite. Instead of giving everyone our time, we need to be vigilant and invest our time with those people and relationships that are "meaningful, relevant, and mutually beneficial."

Let me be clear, this doesn't mean we totally disconnect from our larger network (burn bridges). In fact, Mr. Burriss recommends reaching out to our entire network at least annually. As life happens, people will move into and out of our inner circles all the time.

Darren Hardy's 3-15-5-1 Strategy

In 2017, Darren Hardy, a well known speaker and author, shared an equation for how he stays in contact with his inner circle. Each week, he sets a networking goal using these four numbers: 3-15-5-1.

  • 3 - Represents the number of people that he meets face-to-face. Typically, Darren meets with people over breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, or even a really long walk. 
  • 15 - Represents the number people that receives a written communication, which could be a private message on social media, text message, email, or a handwritten letter. 
  • 5 - Represents the number of people that he calls on the telephone. 
  • 1 - Represents the number of people that receives a gift from him. Darren explains that it could be a book or a gift for their spouse, child, parent, or assistant.   
While my weekly connections are over 4 times that number, using the 5-50-100 Rule, I do love how he mixes it up with face-to-face meetings, written messages, telephone calls, and a gift. My weekly plan moving forward is to borrow his strategy and meet with 3-5 people face-to-face, give at least one gift, and allow the remaining connections to happen using written messages and telephone calls.

Annual Touch Points vs. Quarterly

In the original article, I talked about following up with individuals outside of my "Inner Circle" every 3 months. Unfortunately, this became overwhelming and consumed far too much time. As of November 3, 2017, I have decided to follow Teddy's recommendation and engage with everyone else annually, typically on their birthday. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Calendar make it easy to identify birthdays and I'm able to send a quick message or make a phone call.

Refine Contact List Often 

Another observation that I've had while honing my networking skills is that people move in and out of our lives. Currently, while sending birthday wishes or reaching out to people throughout the year, I find that some contacts are not responsive, have passed away, have changed directions in their lives, or were never really a good fit for me. In these situations, I end up refining my by list by removing them and making room for new and better aligned people.

Have a Networking Mindset: It's Not About You

In the beginning, as with newborn babies, we all have an interest in ourselves. However, it is important to realize that networking isn't really about what other people can do for us, but rather what we can do for others. In his book, Mackay drives this point home when he says that we should dig our well before we are thirsty. This essentially means that we should be pouring into other people's lives by giving them value repeatedly.

By pouring life into others and delivering value consistently, you are building social capital with people. Then, should the day ever arise when you need some assistance, you would have created numerous healthy relationships and deposited enough into others that you could ask for help. Do understand that networking and pouring life into others is not a power card that you get to play at whim. People are people and there are no guarantees that someone will be there for you when you need them, but given a history of regular deposits of good will, the chances are good that you can call on your inner circle (5-50-100) when in need.

Don't get me wrong, it's not wrong to ask for help. In fact, we are encouraged to reach out often because it gives others a chance to pour back into us. However, it is vital to recognize that before one comes seeking for help, one should have started the relationship by depositing value long before one needs to start writing checks.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the importance of networking goes far beyond making a sale, finding a good plumber, or having a lot of friends. For me, networking is an opportunity to touch lives. Through the process of networking, we get to help people become better, stronger, richer, and more fulfilled. We do so by pouring value into them whenever possible.

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Next Steps

If you found value in this post, I would love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section. How will you apply this information in your life? Also, please feel free to share this with someone who may need to hear this message.

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mrender said...

Nice!!! Learned something from the first time I read it...

Damond Nollan said...

Thank you, @mrender! What did you learn this time around?

mrender said...

The sample conversations are awesome!!! They make it more visual to the first version of the post...

mrender said...

This one Golden!!!

Damond Nollan said...

Thank you, @mrender! The idea that we can go back at anytime and improve on our writing makes it even more powerful. Were there any aha moments in this post?

Damond Nollan said...

Awwwww, that's good to know. Moving forward, I'll take a serious look at how I organize my posts. More examples is probably a great idea.

Damond Nollan said...


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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