Business Networking is a critical component of a successful marketing strategy. While networking comes naturally and effortlessly to some people, to many it feels uncomfortable and pretentious. We’d like to share with you some of our experience for making networking opportunities most effective, and yet be sincere and genuine. .
Think about it as a NET that WORKS. For it to work effectively, a net, such as a hammock, requires seamless connectivity among many fibers, adaptability to give and take and carry changing loads, and mutual interdependence that isolates each fiber’s unique strengths. A good network allows members to feel comfortable in their relationship, while strengthening each other.
- A first step is to view networking less about what you can get out of it and more about helping others. In the process of learning about others’ needs,
you are more likely to forge a lasting mutually beneficial relationship.
- Have a very short “elevator speech” that in one sentence tells others about your business. The sentence should state what Benefit you provide, to Who, and How. An example for a Landscape Architect might be: “I help homeowners’ realize their dream yard with affordable landscape designs” rather than simply give his profession.
- Focus on the quality, not quantity of your connections. Best to come away from a networking event with one solid contact than ten superficial ones.
- As an icebreaker, try to give a brief compliment to your new acquaintance. Examples are “I noticed that you have a unique business card design”, or “Your magazine advertising really caught my attention”. This will lead to them telling you more about themselves and their business.
- Help new acquaintances make connections within your existing network. An example is introducing a printer to someone in your network that needs printing. That printer will value your referral and hence be more amenable to open up his network to you.
- You may feel that you have exhausted your current network, but there is always something new to learn about them that may create new synergies.
- Follow up. Don’t just take or give someone your business card. Ask how they prefer to be contacted, if they wish to receive your newsletter, or be invited to an event. Relationships take time, and need to be nurtured, so expect to dedicate time to cultivating it.
- Attend, sponsor, and participate in a variety of events and activities across multiple platforms that will expose you to potential new networks. Among them, from BCoSF’s 101 Marketing Tips are:
- Join a Chamber of Commerce or an established networking group!
- Join or organize a breakfast club with other professionals (not in your field) to discuss business and network referrals.
- Mail a brochure to members of organizations to which you belong.
- Serve on a city board or commission.
- Host a holiday
- Hold an open house.
- Send letters or email to attendees after you attend a conference.
- Join a community list-serve (email list) on the Internet.
We suggest you practice applying some of these techniques and develop some of your own. Do you have networking tips and successful networking stories to share with us and our clients? We’d love to hear from you. Happy NET WORKING!!!!!