3 Keys to Tracking Your Networking
Keep it simple but it’s more than just contact info!
Networking is a funny thing. Some people love it, others put it up there with death, taxes, and public speaking.
I’ve always been a fan, despite the fact that I’m actually an introvert. This is usually a surprise to people who know me. I’ve learned a lot about how to leverage networking over the years and found it incredibly valuable – in fact, I started networking long before LinkedIn, websites, and the Internet as we know it today.
Much of what I’ve learned was often by trial and error, but in the past few years I’ve looked at it more strategically and critically as a marketing channel for lead generation and business development. In a prior article, I wrote about being in the right room, giving before you expect to receive, being clear on your Ideal Client Types and their Strategic Partners, having the right ask, etc. (be sure to read it if you haven’t yet).
So, now that you’re prepared with your strategy and you are networking like crazy, how the heck do you keep track of everything?
I’ve tried many systems and used lots of software programs, but I’ve found that it really boils down to three key areas that will keep things simple, yet still make it easy to keep track of all the networking contacts and related information you’ve worked so hard to collect. And it’s more than just the details; it’s answering key questions along the way, too.
Grab your coffee and read on. While you may end up forwarding this to your admin (virtual or not) in order to set this all up, it’s really important to understand the why behind this model and all the fields in it. Since this is a big topic, I’ve split the content up into two more manageable parts.
#1 Tracking the Right Contact Data in Your CRM
By now, you know I’m a big proponent of using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management software) to manage your contacts, prospects, sales pipeline, marketing touchpoints, etc. Are you still:
- Handwriting notes in your notebook, portfolio or day planner?
- Keeping contact info only in your Outlook?
- Putting reminders to follow up somewhere else? Or maybe not tracking reminders to follow up anywhere?
If so, it’s time for my favorite saying: “If you’re not using a CRM, you are not meeting enough people.”
It’s important to “outgrow” the manual tools you’ve been cobbling together, and you do that by meeting enough of the right connections through your networking efforts. To get that ROI on your effort, time, and expense, there needs to be alignment with the number of people you interact with – the right connections that can lead you to the right prospects – and the amount of activity needed to get there.
As you meet your connections, it’s important to capture key networking details that will make it easy to understand who they are, what they do, where they came from, and the types of information it takes to quickly make introductions.
To support that, here are the Top 10 data fields I track religiously for my networking connections and the reason they’re important (beyond the obvious). These are fields I set up as “custom” in the contact file in my CRM – in this order. This list has been honed and refined over several years to capture the data I – and you – need most frequently. In some CRMs, such as HubSpot, I can also run reports or “lists” to get insights on patterns and clusters of information – more on that later.
Top Ten Networking Contact Fields:
1. Contact Status – This field is a drop-down choice for me to indicate what type of contact they are. Note some of these are categories for people I haven’t met yet, some I have met and know “who” they are, and others I’m not sure of at the time. This is very different than a Lead Status field that most CRMs include automatically; it’s more of a networking field that I’ve created.
- Need to Meet: Highest priority prospect or strategic partner from my prospecting list or current contact list. These are the “A” listers.
- Nice to Meet: Second priority prospect or potential/targeted strategic partner.
- Intro in Process: Someone is introducing me, and I’ve entered their name so I don’t forget (and I can remind the introducer if they forget!)
- 121 (abbreviation for one-to-one/Virtual or in-person networking meeting/coffee): We have scheduled or are in the process of scheduling a 121 to get to know each other.
- Prospect: Identifies this connection as a prospect (notice I don’t use the word “lead”). You can set this up as a Yes (or no) field and only indicate yes as appropriate. I have different levels in my sales pipeline for prospects – here I am looking at general categories of each contact. This can change at any time. I might know a contact for a year or so and then they become a prospect – then I’d update this field.
- Nurture: This means I’ve met them and I want to keep in touch with them. I have several versions of the Nurture Field. Which version you use will depend on your business and the types of people you meet. You may have Strategic Partners, Vendor Partners, Longer Term potential Prospects, etc. I have four or five of the Nurture Field by each category.
- Client: Indicating current or past client (Yes, the Lead Status field would also indicate this, but I’m tracking this from a networking standpoint.)
- Other: You can track family members, service providers, etc. here.
- TBD: To be determined once you’ve met or as the relationship evolves.
- No Action: Keeping contacts in your CRM that may not be relevant now but could be down the road. You never know, right
2. Networking Groups – Which networking groups do they belong to? You can and should track the networking group that connected you to the person. Create a short list of the networking groups you are familiar with and continue to add in the dropdown for easy reference and future report creation.
Note that it’s important to take the time to create a dropdown list instead of an open text field (meaning typing anything you want in there) so you can generate reports and lists at some point.
3. Intro Person – Who introduced you to this contact? This is an important tracking field as you’ll want to thank them for the introduction and update them on how the discussion went. As you review your client list and prospecting pipeline, you’ll want to see who is sending you the very best Ideal Clients, prospects, and strategic partners. And, when you find that some of your clients and prospects are not Ideal, who you’ll want to regroup with to help them understand why the connection wasn’t your target and who is.
4. Initial Meeting Completed – This is a Yes or No field that enables a quick look at whether you’ve already met or in a report that helps you prioritize your outreach for reconnecting.
5. Industry – I have found the industry lists that are often prepopulated in many CRMs are not very helpful. They are typically too general (or too specific) and not exactly how I want to track the industries that my connections are in.
My list is very specific, even separating out the type of consultants I meet such as business consultants, Fractionals (and the various types of those), operations, IT, human resources, sales, marketing, etc. When I’m trying to find a certain type of consultant to introduce to someone, it enables me to find just the right ones faster. It’s worth the time in the setup—and I just continue adding new categories as I need them.
6. Expertise – Often the industry that someone is in, such as “Business Consultant,” doesn’t include what their area of expertise is. This field allows me to include all the areas they specialize in such as distribution, manufacturing, life sciences, etc.
7. Intro Blurb – Asking a referral partner for a blurb that can easily be copied and pasted into an email is easy, saving time and providing a consistent intro for your connections.
8. LinkedIn Profile URL – When I introduce or refer connections, I’ll link their LinkedIn Profile URL to their name in my email so that both parties can easily look each other up. Having it in a field right in your CRM makes this a breeze and it’s a high-value piece of information for your introductions.
9. Scheduling Link – When your connection provides their scheduling link, or sometimes it’s found in their email signature like mine, I include it in this field in my CRM so I can easily find it if I need to reschedule. I do not provide it to others, this field is for my use.
10. Strategic Partner – I use this field to indicate that a connection is a Strategic Partner (YES) or leave it not filled in. It can be set up as a YES/NO field, but I don’t use the negative, I just leave it blank.
There are many times that in a first networking meeting, I know this person is a true Strategic Partner – already sharing connections that are high value to me they want to introduce. This field can be turned on at any time. We all need more Strategic Partners that we have as trusted referral sources, which makes for an efficient marketing strategy for growth.
Start a Slow Implementation
Even though we’ve only gotten through the first area, it’s a big one and arguably the most important since it’s literally setting you up for networking success. So take your time and get into the habit of entering ALL the information.
In the next blog, we’ll dive into the next two areas: Tracking Introductions and Taking 1:1 Notes within Your CRM.
As always, reach out if you want to chat about your networking strategy, tracking, or your marketing strategy in general. I’m always happy to talk with you. And yes, you will be entered into my CRM!