Networking is the base onto which your business development efforts sit. Who you know matters. The broader your network and reach the better chance it will lift you up towards success.

It seems obvious that you should want to be known by as many people as possible. We all have different ideas of what networking is or should be. You and I may meet at an professional event, but that doesn’t mean our respective networking activities will be a mirror of each other. You may be there with the goal of collecting business cards and meeting as many people as possible. I may have reviewed the list of attendees, researched them, and am focused on meeting a smaller number of specific people.

Both methods are right and can work. The goal is meeting people, whether a large number or consciously deciding who you want to meet. No matter how you do it you will then need to nurture the connections you make and see whether they evolve into trusted relationships. That needs to happen for a connection to trust making a referral to you or connecting you with one of their trusted connections.

There are many ways to advance professional relationships to the point where there is mutual trust. All involve you committing time and energy into growing relationships. You should think about and come up with ideas and strategies to ‘touch’ your connections. There are various ways to do this, such as by sending an email to check in, forwarding an article on a topic your of interest, or sending a book. Of course, you always can pick up the phone and call. The choice is yours, but you should have a goal of getting to know your connections well enough to know what type of contact is best.

The idea of thoughtful acts or gifts isn’t new, but it is something else you should think about. I have a partner who is great at this. He will get to know people and send them thoughtful gifts. An example is when he learns a connection roots for a specific professional or college sports team, he sends a gift related to that. This is easy to do online. You can bet the people who receive those unexpected thoughtful gifts remember him. Plus, these types of gifts are great because most people will keep them in their office and are likely to think of the sender more often because they are reminded of them every day.

Another idea is to hold gatherings where you can bring your connections together, i.e. be a connector. You need to realize your connections are great connections for your other connections. You can hold a formal meeting, go to lunch, or have a happy hour. The choice is yours, but people appreciate and remember when you are willing to help them by introducing them to your valued connections.

Sitting around hoping for work to find you is not a good method of business development. Instead you need to take action by coming up with a plan and then jumping feet first to networking. Once you start making new connections, the next step is deepening those connections. Do this by making a plan and working on your network every day.