A client recently complained to me that networking was proving to be a waste of time. They had tried a few different approaches – speed networking events, trade shows and group meetings, but they just weren’t seeing any results for all their efforts.
I explained to them that there are three critical things that you need to take on board when you plan your networking strategy:
1) Networking is not just attending events.
You won’t enjoy many benefits from your networking if you only interact with people hoping to sell your product or service to them. You need to approach networking events with the intention of making contacts who are interested in reciprocally supporting one another to find new clients. Collect business cards and follow up your initial contact at the networking event with connections through social media, or fire off an e-mail to say that you were glad to meet and look forward to networking with them in the future.
2) Expect to help others before expecting them to help you.
You need to expect to actively look for useful leads and contacts to pass on to your network before you should expect them to start passing referrals to you. It might take a little while for results to come through, but in the end, with networking, you get out what you put in.
3) Network with the right people.
Think about who else your customers might buy from and what else they might buy. For example, if you sell wedding dresses, your customers are also likely to be shopping for a photographer and jewellery. If your customer is getting a new website designed, then they might also be looking for a copywriter. Seek out people from whom your customers might also purchase without any conflict of interests on either side. Attend the events that they attend, make contacts, build relationships; new prospects and warm referrals will soon be coming your way.