Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Getting a Return on the Networking Investment

A colleague of mine, Rohit Talwar, recently published a poll on Ecademy asking people where they get the greatest return on their networking investment from.

Sadly, it didn't shock me to see that 58% of respondents either weren't seeing a return or settled for the rather vague 'developing relationships that could be of value in the future'.

Here is my response to the debate that accompanies the survey:

I think I shocked an audience in Dorset last week when I gave them my thoughts on this subject. Not because they disagreed with me, more that they realised that I was right!

In my opinion, people attend networking events, or sign up to an online community, predominantly for one of two reasons. Either because someone they know has invited them to do so, or because they have heard about networking and googled for the opportunities nearby. They subsequently join because they like the buzz and think that doing so may be good for their business.

For the vast majority of people, there is no point at which they sit down and work out what they want from networking, what success looks like. Very few people will calculate the return on their investment that they expect from networking and, in my experience, the few who do merely look to get their money back!

That return may be financial or it may be represented in other terms, such as self development, peer group support or enhanced knowledge. But unless you clearly identify what the return you want is, how can you possibly take the necessary steps to achieve it?

Until people start thinking more strategically about networking, very few people will achieve any significant return on their investment of time and money.

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