In many ways, success at networking is the perfect example of the uncommon application of common knowledge. Most people understand that networking is important to their success—they just lack a step-by-step process to get the results they want. Almost no one really incorporates a comprehensive methodology that will build a business through networking. Thus, the need to network is “common knowledge,” and the development of the methodology required to be successful at it is the “uncommon application.”

The word networking has become so overused that some business professionals can no longer define it. Many people think that networking is attending social or business after-hour events, shaking a few hands, collecting a few cards, and, of course, giving away a few cards of their own. Sadly, they actually believe that’s all there is to networking. To be fair, we could say they’re engaging in social networking. That’s never to be confused, however, with business networking.

I’ve found that businesspeople tend to fall into one of two groups when it comes to their views of networking. For many, the current mind-set is that networking is a passive business strategy, not a proactive marketing tool. This attitude results in a scattered, often ineffective networking approach that consequently wastes the business owner’s time and money. Not surprisingly, when people feel they’ve been wasting their time and money on something, they’re understandably not going to continue that activity.

On the other hand, some entrepreneurs do consider networking a proactive marketing tool for their business. How can you tell? They make it a significant part of their marketing and business plans. They have networking goals. They may even have a budget line item for networking. Most important, they practice it and live it every day.

If you share the first mind-set—the passive one—you’re hoping that just showing up at meetings is enough. And therein lies the problem. You need to integrate networking into the way you do business on a weekly basis. This approach truly brings networking into your business as a proactive marketing tool. For examples of straightforward ways to do this, pick up a book that I co-authored with Michelle R. Donovan entitled The 29% Solution. In it, you will find 52 weekly strategies to quickly incorporate networking into your life.

Building these strategies into your life helps you maintain your focus on networking while you work to identify new revenue streams for your business. Before you know it, you’ll be driven by the intention to get new business, and you’ll have the networking tools to satisfy that drive, because—let’s face it—if you have no new business, soon you will have no business at all.