How To Improve Your Networking With Goal Setting (Video)

It was a blast to work with the folks at SkilledUp to put together this fun video on how to network more effectively using goal setting and a little bit of a system. Big kudos to my extremely talented movie-producing-and-entrepreneur-extraordinaire friend Rich Boehmcke for shooting, editing, and producing this video!

The original video on SkilledUp is here.

How I Grew My Network By 142 People Last Month


I’ve always loved meeting new people. My mother will recall that when I was a child I would walk around the play area at my kindergarten school, offering up whatever toy I had in my hand to other kids in an attempt to get them to share and play with me back. It’s been 30 years of meeting new people since those days back in kindergarten, and I can honestly trace all of the internships and jobs I’ve ever had directly back to a specific person in my network. I actually share the story of those connections during a talk I give annually to my old high school, “Shaking Hands: How I Networked My Way To A Career I Love”.

I also love using systems and processes to help make my work and life more productive. Over the years I have evolved the way I network to try and make it as efficient and fun as possible. A friend recently asked me how many new people I met last month, and I think I startled him when I said very quickly and specifically “142”. Yes, I track how many new people I meet each month, thanks to a few tags in LinkedIn and, of course, a process. 🙂

Here’s the thing, though: you don’t have to be an extreme social extrovert to grow and benefit from a great network. I believe with a little process, a few funny nametags, and a touch confidence, anyone can grow a great network.

I believe there are three parts to building and nurturing a great network:

  1. Set goals.
  2. Make a plan, get prepared.
  3. Be diligent, follow-up.

1. Set Goals

What are you networking for? Having crisp goals makes it so that you maximize the time and effort you spend growing your network. It’s okay to have multiple goals, but don’t have too many or you will lose focus. These goals will then help you plan out the content, people, and events you need to be most effective. My current networking goals are:

  1. Hire a new Product Manager at ThinkingPhones.
  2. Find new business partners for a specific product at ThinkingPhones.
  3. Find new business partners for Perspyre.
  4. Grow my network in the NYC startup community.

For each of my goals, I write down a 2-sentence “opener” that I can use when talking to someone about them. For my goal of hiring a new PM at ThinkingPhones, I use:

“I’m looking to hire a PM with five or more years of experience to join our NYC team and focus on building our new UC and big data clients. I’d ideally like them to have experience building mobile apps and working with remote teams.”

Now whenever I bump into someone at an event I have these quickly queued up in my head and ready to go.

2. Make A Plan, Get Prepared

Once I’ve set my goals for the quarter I then create an action plan to actually get me in front of the people that I need to meet. I have been using this plan for my “Grow my network in the NYC startup community” goal:

  1. Attend 2-3 Meetups each month.
  2. Connect with 5 new people at any Meetup or event I go to.
  3. Have coffee with one new person from the NYC startup community each week.

As part of my early morning routine, I check the Meetups each day to see if there are any interesting events to go to. There’s also a decent amount of sponsored parties by larger tech companies that serve as great networking events, like the recent customer party that Mixpanel held in Tribeca. There are lots of articles and tips on how to network effectively at these types of events, and one of my personal favorites is to put a second nametag on (when they let you write your own on those “Hi, my name is” ones). I put the second one underneath the first and usually write “Ask me about PM jobs” or “I like bacon”, as they usually elicit a more direct opening and give the other person a reason to come over.

#1 and #2 are really in service of #3, helping me get those individual “purple” meetings setup. I prepare for an individual networking meeting (usually at coffee at Ground Support Cafe, love those almond milk lattes) by thinking about the following and writing them down in LinkedIn on that person’s profile (in the Notes tab):

  • What’s an interesting news event, blog, or other fact that’s relevant to that person?
  • What do I hope to get from this person?
  • What can I offer them in return?
  • Is there anyone I know who would make sense to introduce to this person?

3. Be Diligent, Follow-up 

I’ve gone through all of this trouble to find, setup and prepare for these great conversations with new and interesting people – but what’s the point of doing it if you don’t follow-up?! I believe that following-up is one of the most crucial parts of any effective networking strategy, and it takes dedication and a system to do so well. I use LinkedIn as my personal CRM system, so after every networking meeting I write down the following either immediately (if possible) or that evening into that person’s LinkedIn profile:

  • Where we met
  • What we talked about
  • What I said I would give/send/share with them
  • What they said they would give/send/share with me
  • If and when we’re meeting up next (set a reminder)
  • Tag them with the month I met them (how I calculated 142 people last month)

After I write all that down I then send them an email following up and thanking them. Boomerang lets me schedule that message to return later.

Lastly, in order not to let my new contacts go cold, I spend time every Monday morning reviewing the connections I made that month and looking for opportunities to help them. This could be an introduction to a colleague or friend, sharing a cool article that’s relevant to them, or asking how an event went that they told me was coming up. Sometimes I don’t have anything to share with a particular connection and that’s okay – I try to be as genuine as possible and only reach out when I think it’s worth it. If you use the Reminders feature in LinkedIn this is super easy since you’ll get an email each morning with a summary of your tasks.

This is just what works for me. The methods and tools that I use in service of my networking goals are just that: methods and tools. Effective networking is really about the goals: if you have good goals, you can use any smattering of tools from my list or others to help accomplish them.

I’d love to hear what tips, tricks, and tools you all use to network effectively. And if you want to meet for an almond milk latter, hit me up!



How I use LinkedIn as a personal CRM system


I think the single best feature of LinkedIn is one that most folks I talk to never use. I was sharing this with someone at the NYC Enterprise Sales meet-up this week and he encouraged me to write it up.

In addition to the standard ways of using LinkedIn – searching for people you’ve met or will meet, connecting with them, and then browsing their co-workers – you can use LinkedIn as a lighweight CRM system that has great mobile integration. If you’re in Sales, Recruiting, or any other discipline that requires a real CRM system than your needs are likely way beyond this way of using LinkedIn, but it works really well for me (a product guy who does a bunch of networking and hates holding on to business cards).

It’s all about the “Relationships” and “Contact Info” tab. When setup correctly and with a little effort put into note-taking, these two pieces of a contact’s profile can be very powerful for keeping track of your connection to that person.

How does it work?

It’s super simple (3 steps!), and it all starts with this magical button on LinkedIn:

Screenshot 2015-01-21 17.23.33

The first thing I do after I meet someone new is search for them on LinkedIn. Then:

  1. Click the magical “Save to Contacts” button.
    This stores their profile in your LinkedIn address book even if you’re not connected to them. I do this even before I click “Connect”.
  2. Click “How you met” and enter in some info.
    Include things like locations, events, online locations, etc. The key is to enter something.
  3. Click the “Contact Info” tab and enter in their contact info.
    This is where you can enter any private contact information you have about them from business cards, email signatures, etc.


Done! Now what?

Now you have all of the important information about that person stored in a single place, and its tied to the profile that they control the updates to. Here’s an example for my awesome friend and fellow power networker, Mark Birch:

Screenshot 2015-01-21 17.25.15

I can see a few really useful things in the “Relationship” section whenever I look at Mark’s profile, like how we met and our latest email interaction. If I expand the section I can see our entire email history:

Screenshot 2015-01-21 17.25.27

Even cooler is the mobile integration. Download the LinkedIn app for iOS or Android, and then turn on “Download Connections” in Settings:

Screenshot 2015-01-21 17.25.36

Now, all of your local contacts will get updated with all of contact details you put into LinkedIn, including their emails, phone numbers, and LinkedIn profile ID. It will also get updated when they update their profile. It will add a new contact if you don’t already have one, or sync to an existing one if it finds it. Check it out:

Screenshot 2015-01-21 17.25.45

To get the most out of this setup, you need to connect your email and calendar accounts on LinkedIn via this settings page.

My other CRM tip is to “Tag” contacts for easy follow-up and sorting. One way I’ve used it in the past is to tag folks that I wanted to physically meetup with once I moved back to NYC. I used the tag “NYC Reconnect”, and have been slowly making my way through the list (and adding a “Note” in the Relationships tab whenever we’ve met!).

I’d love to hear your tips on how you use LinkedIn as a CRM system. Later this month I’ll share more thoughts on how I network (hint: lots of coffees). Also thanks to Mark for letting me use his profiles in my blog post.