Do You Hate Networking? - I Don't Blame You!
by Robert Middleton
When I got married a little over 4 years ago I slowed down my networking activities to a crawl.
I went to one or two business-related meetings a month but finally I even quit those forms of networking.
Funny thing, however. My business increased!
I can hear you cheering and wondering what you can do to promote your business without networking.
Here are a few important networking tips which, if you follow closely, will enable you to stop going to networking events as well (because so many people will now know you and what you can do for them).
- Get your story down flat. There's no excuse for going to a networking event and in answer to the question, "what do you do?" all you can come up with is, "I'm a computer programmer." Let them know the benefits you offer and you'll stimulate a conversation: "I help manufacturing companies who want to get on the Internet but don't know where to start."
- Networking is more than going to cocktail mixers. Groups like IMC (Institute of Management Consultants) hold monthly meetings here in the SF Bay Area that consist of an afternoon program, a mixer and then dinner with a speaker. This way you get more bang for your networking buck.
- Often better are brainstorming sessions. Again, IMC holds area breakfasts throughout the Bay Area. This way you get to connect with a smaller group of people who you really get to know and trust. Check out IMC at http://www.imcusa.org/
- Networking with your peers isn't a waste of time. If you clearly differentiate how you are unique, you will get referrals sooner or later. This works for lawyers and doctors, why not consultants, organizers and coaches? For several of my clients, this is the ONLY kind of networking they do.
- Also seek out networking/business groups that consist of people who are your potential clients. Get involved and get visible. I've know people that got from 20% to 85% of their business through this kind of networking. Be careful however, that you don't overpromote yourself and wear out your welcome.
- For God's sake, keep in touch. What good does it do if you meet a boatload of new people and they never hear from you again? It's time to start that E-zine (email newsletter like this one) or even a mailed newsletter to make sure people don't forget who you are and what you do. Send it out monthly or even more frequently.
- Don't just hand out YOUR cards, gather the cards of OTHERS with a very simple phrase. "I send out monthly updates on how to get better at staying organized. I'd love to send it to you. Do you have an email address? Great, I'll send you the most recent issue tomorrow."
- Speaking is more powerful that networking. When I speak to a group I'm the center of attention for everyone there. I don't have to worry if anyone will notice me or ask what I do! I get everyone's card. They all go on my E-zine list and I make sure they never forget me.
- Make your web site feel like they know you personally. Too many web sites are cold and impersonal. Write copy that communicates directly. Put your picture on the site. Add valuable resources so people have a reason to come back. Re-direct people to your web site through your E-Zine. I call this electronic networking.
And these are just some of the reasons I don't have to do much networking anymore!
Marketing Flashes (on Networking)
- The best time to network is during the Holiday Season. That's when everyone gets together. Accept all invitations and be sure to get around to the topic of business!
- Don't try to get the cards from everyone at a networking event. Mix and mingle until you meet someone interesting and then spend half an hour or more getting to know them (not trying to sell your services.)
- Family events, weddings, barmitzvahs, and even funerals can be a great place to network. No kidding. But don't talk up your business, get to know people better. People tend to be more open at these kind of events.
Some of the best networking events can be the ones you host yourself . I used to host a networking lunch at my office when I was in San Francisco. You can control the guest list and everyone there will meet and remember you.
"This article, copyright Robert Middleton, Action Plan Marketing. All rights reserved. Robert's web site is a comprehensive resource on marketing for Independent Professionals.
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