I believe, based on results and years of marketing and business promotional experience, networking should be among every business owners top 2 marketing strategies. It has one of the best return on investment for time and money, IF it is done intentionally well.
A lot of business owners and practitioners I talk to say that they don’t like to network or they haven’t found it to be effective. This can be because they don’t know how to do it well, they may have unrealistic expectations about the timing of results or the group of people they are networking with is the wrong fit for their business.
I do a lot of networking both online and off, and as a natural ‘people person’ who likes to talk, networking is relatively easy for me. But even if you’re a bit on the shy side or have reservations about the potential for success with networking, you can gain value from this marketing activity if you follow certain guidelines.
First, some things about the right attitude and approach that I have found to be vital when engaging in networking activities:
- Build trustworthy relationships
To grow my business I focus on building strong and trustworthy relationships; we are all relational beings in life and business.
- Prioritise your reputation
Your reputation in life and business is worth than any money and cannot be bought back if you compromise it, be sure you know what you want to be remembered for by every person you meet, never put your reputation on the line for short term gain.
- Two ears and one mouth
I practice being a good listener, and showing a genuine interest in others business first and foremost. Using classic and timeless communication skills such as, active listing, information feedback, and clarifying questions.
- No strings attached
I have a ‘no strings attached’ approach to conversations, whilst always staying alert to potential professional synergy or solutions suggestions, which aren’t always about me and my business.
- Be alert for potential synergy – Win/Win potential
- Under promise and over deliver
I find as I operate in this giving and sharing space, giving referrals, showing genuine interest in others success, and last but not least delivering more than expected in service and care, what goes around….definitely comes around.
Some steps I personally find useful to get the most out of networking:
1. Choose well: Not every group of people will be right for you. Choose groups where people congregate who share your interests and/or are potential clients. Chambers of Commerce, men’s and women’s organizations, networking groups, special interest groups, and associations are all potential choices.
ALSO remember Social networking, choose the right networks for you!
2. Relationships matter: Networking is not about selling, but rather developing relationships that can lead to sales or referrals. The idea is to get to know people and allow them to get to know you.
Often, people approach networking with the hope of making a sale or getting a client after one visit to an appropriate group. That’s not how it works. People do business with those they know and trust and it can take time to build up that knowledge and trust. So approach a networking event without any expectation of getting new business. Instead go with the idea of meeting new people or schmoozing with those you’ve already gotten to know.
3. Dress well: Establish yourself as a successful person, which you can do by dressing the part. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy pants at home. If necessary, get advice from an image consultant.
4. Be prepared: Bring plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Brochures or printed postcards can also be effective. Also, craft a short description of what you do — no more than 10 or 15 seconds.
5. Mix and mingle: Many events have walk-around networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the walk-around, do talk to people you have met before to enhance your relationship, but sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers. Here too, ask questions and listen.
6. Friendly faces: People attend networking events to meet others. If someone is standing alone, that’s the perfect opportunity to make a new contact. You might want to start the conversation by saying, “May I join you?”
7. Move on with ease: Don’t spend all of your time talking to one person. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards, if appropriate, and move on. I often say, “I’d like to do some mixing now. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you”
8. Helping others: Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Perhaps you know someone who could use your prospects services. If you do, make the referral.
9. FOLLOW up: If you make a good connection with someone, after the event, send a note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If appropriate, send an article or some kind of information that they might find helpful. Do not add them to your mailing list without their permission
Remember: Networking is a process, not a one off event. It takes time to build strong business relationships and trust with people who interest you. Invite someone to a one on one meeting, in Venus we call this a ‘rave’ where you can get to know the person better and they will do the same.
Most business owners are looking for connections and new relationships so be bold and make that first step.
To your business success