Why Your Networking Is Like Your Marriage

By Rob Brown, Founder of the Global Networking Council

“Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” - Mark Twain

So what does networking have to do with marriage? More than you think, on so many levels, let’s look at one. Ready for a couple of interesting statistics? Around 50% of marriages fail. Around 80% of businesses fail. You don’t need to know where these stats come from, you can find them anywhere!

So what’s the point? Well, I’m not a marriage advisor, but I can tell you that marriages fail due to unrealistic expectations and unmet needs. You expect your partner to be one thing, and they’re not. You expect marriage to be something easy and amazing, and it isn’t. You need someone or something to X, but it doesn’t happen. You get angry and upset. Or perhaps disappointed and complacent. You walk, you stray, you rebel.

The same goes for business. You expect your dream or idea to make you rich, be hugely popular and give you the lifestyle you dream of. It doesn’t. You think your product or service will change lives and have everyone raving. It doesn’t. You work harder and longer. You fail more. You suffer hardship, knockbacks and rejection. You give up and get out.

What’s going on here, and how does it apply to you and your networking? To explain, you need to see my Networking Expectation Matrix™. It shows you why some people take to networking and stick it out, while others don’t. A bit like marriage, right?

In this matrix, there are two variables — experience and expectation. Expectation is what you think will happen or want to happen before you do something. Experience is your payback - how it works out for you. So we’ve got what you hope will happen and what actually happens.

If we define networking as attending business related events to fulfil your commercial objectives, we can apply this to networking. Let’s leave aside online and social networking for the moment, although this model applies to that to. So let’s break down each quadrant:

Networking Indifference

When you have low expectations of anything, the only way is up! So if you expect little and you get little, you’re not too bothered. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. No great investment, no great loss. You’re indifferent, you’re going through the motions, you’re complacent. You may or may not go again. You may be more inclined to try other methods of lead generation and profile building instead of networking. It didn’t do it for you, and you didn’t think it would anyway. With no real rewards on offer, why put in anything more than minimum effort? This is networking indifference.

Networking Advocacy

You didn’t think it would be as good as it actually was. So you got more than you bargained for. You actually enjoyed it. You actually met some good people. You actually had some interesting conversations and you maybe actually created some good business opportunities. You’re pleasantly surprised. Even delighted. You’d do it again. In fact, you’re a fan! You’re raving about networking. You can’t wait to tell people how good it was for you. And how they should try it. With all the great things networking can do for you, what’s not to love? This is networking advocacy.

Networking Avoidance

Your expectations were high. You’d heard people raving about networking. You’d had a few invitations from networking enthusiasts. You’d read all about the many benefits of networking. Then what happens? You go and have a bad experience. You get sold to, jumped on, bored to death, overwhelmed or rejected. You have lots of wrong conversations with the wrong people. You wanted it to work. Really. You were idealistic. A dreamer. It seemed romantic and wonderful from the outside — all these great people to do business with and get to know. But you now feel let down, hurt and disappointed. You wasted your valuable time. With all the hype and spin and over-rated and so-called benefits, why bother? This is networking avoidance.

Networking Commitment

You went in high and came out high. You believed the hype and it didn’t let you down. You met some good people, made some good contacts, helped a few folks out and even enjoyed yourself! You hoped you would. You thought you would. And you did. It’s all good, and although the effort and commitment is high, you can make it work. No pain, no gain, right? You only get out what you put in. You’re prepared to do it again. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’ve got to get to know people. Networking is a long term relationship, not a one night stand. You see the future, and the future is networking. If you’re pretty satisfied, you’ll go again, right? This is networking commitment.

In my role on the Global Networking Council, I do a lot of interviews and have a lot of conversations with the world’s top networking thinkers, writers and practitioners. We talk about the importance of the first networking event. How that experience can colour your view of networking for many years to come. If you’re not mentally strong, or recognise that most things are difficult before they become easy, then you might never go networking again after a bad experience.

When I go around the world talking to people about building their reputation and winning more business through networking, I ask them how they define networking. I get so many different answers. Which also means that people’s expectations of networking must also be very different. If you think networking is X and I think it’s Y, then we’re both going to be looking for different things when we walk in a room.

What affects your networking expectations? Any and all of the following:

- Your current network, contacts and relationships.

- Your mindset, personality, gender, culture and age.

- The networking experiences and anecdotes of people you know.

- Your desire to network, raise your profile, win new business or whatever else is driving you.

- Your affinity and empathy for people.

- Your understanding of how networking and relationships work.

- Your appreciation that networking involves people and that people are complex, erratic and varied creatures.

- Any previous networking experiences of your own.

So while the Networking Expectations Matrix™ gives you a steer on outcomes, and how you’ll feel about networking going forward, it’s not the whole picture. For instance, depending on who you are, you might have a poor networking experience but tough it out and have a great second one. Your expectations might be so low second time around that you are wowed by your subsequent experience.

This happens a lot. Like your first beer or first cigarette (so I’m told), networking can grow on you. Like a marriage, it sometimes takes you a while to get used to. But like marriage, it’s also a good thing. Which is why so many people are involved. Whether it’s online or offline, attending other people’s events or running your own, doing it informally at the golf club or school gates or formally as part of a club, it’s happening everywhere.

So here are the takeaways from this:

1. Lower your expectations. The lower your expectations for a forthcoming networking situation, the more you might be pleasantly surprised by the experience. If it’s enough to make you want to go again, you could get hooked!

2. Increase your chances of networking success. The higher your expectations, the more at stake. You set the bar high, so you’ve got to make sure you’re in a position to gain something positive from your experience. Ensure you make the most from each and every networking situation by getting really skilled in the art of networking.

3. Take responsibility. Like a marriage, networking can work for you or fail for you. Whichever way, it’s probably your fault. It’s definitely your responsibility. It takes effort, commitment and good relationship building skills.

4. Think long term. Don’t be too swayed by your first experience. You might get lucky or unlucky. I’ll listen to you if you tell me you’ve tried networking lots of different times in different ways and you still don’t like it. But not if you’ve tried it once.

5. Use the Networking Expectations Matrix™ as part of your networking strategy to evaluate your networking return on investment (ROI) and which events you’ll attend. That’s good practice.

6. Ignore the statistics. 85% of marriages under 25 end in divorce. But that means 15% make it. 65% of second marriages fail. So 35% pull through. You can learn lots through statistics. But you can always buck the trend, be an exception to the rule and confound the statisticians. Be authentic, be you and be ‘in the room’. You’re bound to make something happen.

7. Get some coaching. I would say this because it’s what I do, but every single aspect of networking profitably is coachable. Most people are pretty lousy at it. You can easily get ahead of your competition and gain massive networking ROI with some good coaching.

Happy networking! And who knows? You might even meet a future marriage partner though networking. Now there’s a stat worth investigating!

Rob Brown is a top motivational business speaker and international authority on networking, referrals and reputations. He is founder of the Global Networking Council (the world's top 100 networking thought leaders, authors and gurus) and author of over 50 marketing books and guides, including the bestselling book How to Build Your Reputation. For a complimentary copy of his powerful 93 page Special Report: The 13 Commandments of Turning Relationships Into Profits (value £47) go to www.rob-brown.com

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