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Relationship Mapping: 
How To Do It Right

Relationship Mapping Computer w Book

Relationship mapping is a hot topic these days.  

While there are many solutions out there to help support relationship mapping, there are no silver bullets.

In this ebook, we share:

  • Our secrets and tips for creating insightful and actionable relationship maps 
  • Examples of the step by step process for setting up a relationship map
  • Insight to help your own executives create meaningful connections with customers


Remember:  Boardroom Insiders is uniquely positioned to help you with your relationship mapping efforts because we are one of the few companies that has a clean and robust set of data on senior-level executives.


Learn How to Create Actionable Relationship Maps

Relationship Mapping: How To Do It Right

A Boardroom Insiders eBook


We have been in the relationship mapping business for a long time—long before there were umpteen tools that claim to be silver bullets for “relationship capital information management.”

Relationship Mapping Introduction Image

We’ve watched companies raise—and spend—millions upon millions of dollars trying to become the category killer. But apart from LinkedIn, which offers reliably basic relationship mapping, most have failed to live up to their promises.

We have many opinions as to why, which we will share later in this ebook, but first we think it is important to talk about what companies are looking for when they seek out relationship mapping services and solutions.


What Do Customers Want?

Over the years, our team at Boardroom Insiders has spoken to hundreds of customers—mainly technology vendors—about what they hope to achieve by mapping relationships between their own executives and those of their customers and prospects. We have also completed dozens of custom relationship mapping projects. Through these conversations and engagements, we have consistently heard that companies are looking for three things when they are considering a relationship mapping exercise.

1. Specificity

Companies tend to reserve relationship mapping for their most important, most strategic accounts. They come to us with a defined list of priority accounts, anywhere from 50 to 500 organizations. In addition, they are looking to target a certain number of functional roles within those accounts. A typical engagement might be: “We want to uncover connections between our top 15 executives and the corporate CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs of our top 200 accounts.” 

2. Context

If you look at two executives’ LinkedIn profiles, you might see that they are connected, through a company. Let’s use IBM as an example. But then it is up to you to dig a bit deeper to determine if this connection is even relevant or actionable. Did they work at IBM at the same time? Did they work within the same division or hold similar roles? Is it likely they knew each other while they were there? These are the types of contextual details that make a connection actionable. Now, imagine if you have to do this kind of digging across 300 customer executives so that you can map them against your own executive team. Suddenly the task of uncovering and understanding the context of all of these executive-to-executive connections looks overwhelmingly time-consuming. 

3. Actionability

When it comes to relationship mapping, this is what it’s all about; discovering a strong and relevant connection that you can use to kickstart a relationship between two executives. But what constitutes “actionable”? 

We like to visualize these connections on a continuum. On the left side of the continuum are connections that are not very actionable; for example, two executives both worked at IBM, but one was an intern there in the 1980s and the other was a regional sales leader from 2010 to 2017. 

This is not very actionable because it is unlikely these two people share common experiences or close colleagues as a result of their time at IBM. 

An executive, for example, would not write an email to another executive that says, “Hey I saw you were recently in IoT sales at IBM. I did an internship there for six months in 1986!” 


Contrast this with a connection that we would place on the right side of the actionable continuum; let’s say for example, two executives worked in IBM’s IT organization at the same time, under the same corporate CIO. You can imagine an executive writing something like, “Hi Tracy. I see we overlapped at IBM from 2014 to 2016 in the IT organization under Jeff Smith. I was a VP on their Infrastructure team. We probably know a lot of the same people from that time. Small world.”

This is what we mean by “actionability” and these are the types of nuggets that our customers are looking for.


There Is No Silver Bullet—For Now 


Silver Bullet Relationship Mapping (4)

Despite the impressive array of emerging technologies and products in the relationship mapping space, there is no one product that satisfies the customer needs as described above, which is why the type of relationship mapping we do is still largely a manual process. 


What Current Products on the Market Are Missing

Consistent and accurate underlying people data.

You can apply all the AI and machine learning you want, but if you don’t have an accurate and complete underlying data set on companies and executives, it’s hard to do the mapping. The first thing we do when we hear about a new mapping tool is we trial it using some of the executives we know best. We are always surprised at how inaccurate or incomplete the basic biographical data is. The old adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies. 

FrustrationLittle Contextual Richness

Remember the IBM example above? All of the tools we have looked at have the same issue; it is up to the user to dig for the context—person-by-person—which is so overwhelming and time-consuming that most teams quit before they even get started.

No Opportunity to Build a Customized List or Data Set

As mentioned above, most companies are looking to map their own executives against a specific list of accounts and titles—and they want a holistic view across that set of individuals. Absent this, they have to build it out themselves, which is daunting.


How to Build Actionable Relationship Maps

I.  Define Your Targets

Build a list of names, titles and company names of every executive you want to map against. Be sure and include the executives from your own company on this list.

Define Your List of Targets for Actionable Relationship Maps

II. Build Your Data Sets

Build a list of every single organization that these executives have ever been associated with. Include alma maters, work history, nonprofits, volunteer and charitable organizations, etc. Also build a list of their stated hobbies and interests.

Relationship Mapping data Sets 1

Relationship Mapping Data Set 2

III. Find Common Threads

Find the organizations, companies, associations and hobbies that are most common within your group. Research and map out the context of how people are connected through these organizations, associations, hobbies, etc.

Find Common Threads in Relationship Mapping

IV. Identify the Most Actionable Connections

You are likely to find hundreds—or even thousands—of connections through this exercise. Most of them will not be very compelling or actionable. So, at this point you want to narrow it down to the most actionable connections. Remember that the plan is to ask your own executives to ACT on these connections, so you want to present only the most compelling findings.


USMC Relationship Mapping w Border

Oracle Relationship Mapping

Symantec Relationship Mapping

V. Create a Formal Presentation and Action Plan

It is important to package this information in a compelling, professional and attractive way for your own executives and to make specific asks of them. This exercise is expensive and time-consuming, so make sure something gets done with the information—and that it doesn’t just get placed on a shelf.


Other Tips , Do’s and Don’ts and Best Practices

  • Start small and scale later. To ensure you find enough actionable connections, we suggest a minimum of 25 accounts and/or 150 executives.
  • Put your information in an Excel or a Google Sheet and use the sort feature to find most common organizations and track connections.

  • Assign an experienced analyst with strong business acumen and an understanding of C-Level audiences to make the call on which connections are actionable and which are not.

  • “Pitch” your idea to your own executives by packaging your most actionable relationship maps and insights—along with your action plan—into an attractive presentation that will make your initiative easy to understand.

  • Don’t try and boil the ocean. Doing this with more than 200 accounts or 500 individuals is difficult, especially if you have not done it before.

  • Don’t feel like you need any fancy technology to manipulate your data set.

  • Don’t assign this job to an admin or an intern—or anyone else without business acumen and experience with C-Level audiences.

  • Don’t forget to include a specific ask around what actions you want your executives to take.

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Make sure you follow up with the executive communications team to determine the impact of your relationship mapping project. Define and share specific results of your work, even if they are only anecdotes from the executive team. Identify areas for improvement, refine your process and repeat. And be sure to report your successes and wins to others within your organization to help create interest and demand for this service.


Need Help?

Boardroom Insiders is uniquely positioned to help you with your relationship mapping efforts because we are one of the few companies that has a clean and robust set of data on senior-level executives.

If you are interested in relationship mapping and would like to schedule a conversation, contact us.

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