by Caroline Creedon
I’m noticing a lot of people making the goal of attending more “networking’ events for 2016. The idea of networking is often as pleasurable as the thought of going to the dentist. We feel nervous, out of our comfort zone and the unknown outcome is not a welcoming thought. Having said that we also know that there are proven benefits in attending network events which is why so many people make it a goal.
To get the most out of these types of events you need to remember that there is more to networking than sales pitches, awkward conversations, plastic smiles and a handful of business cards that will just sit on your desk until you ‘have time’ to do anything with them.
A good networking event will offer you a mixture of ideas, resources, information and the potential for new clients, business partnerships or links to networks of others attendees. The power that you have is that you know your business and you trust your product. This will be your gateway to creating a position of trust with others, which in turn will give back to your business directly and indirectly.
Should the term networking be associated more with something along the lines of: Business Development with social interaction? The saying “As a man thinks, so he shall be” comes to mind, when I think of the effectiveness of networking. If you think networking is not your ‘thing’, you more than likely won’t achieve the same level of success as if your thoughts were open and positive about the possible results of future success for you and your business.
Mark often talks about ‘people buying people’ and because creating trust through networking gives you direct contact with people, it is far more successful than other marketing strategies. People are more likely to buy from you if they like you!
It would be near impossible for everyone at a networking event to be your customer and that is okay because you don’t want everyone to be your customer, especially if you can’t help them or they can’t help you. One of the keys to business is that it is essential to have a crystal clear idea of who your client is and why they need you. Do you have an offer that you can express simply, clearly and relatively quickly (you don’t want to put them to sleep!)? There needs to be a willingness to share information about yourself, the solutions you may be able to offer and the openness of adding value to a potential long-term relationship where all parties benefit. The other side of this is that you need to engage 100% into the conversation.
There are a couple of key elements to successful networking. It isn’t a matter of checking what event your local Chamber of Commerce is holding this month, it is about being proactive with a plan for your networking and staying focused and committed to that plan. The reward for your valuable time invested is that you will discover avenues of opportunity that will be a positive investment in the growth of your business.
Once you are focused on your networking plan and you’ve attended a successful networking event and created some great relationships… What now? Do you take a pile of cards to your workplace and pan them out for everyone to see how many cards you picked up off the table??? I am guessing if you show your boss that you have met your KPIs of attending a network event and deserve the pay rise at the end of the year, you will more than likely frustrate your boss with your blasé attitude.
A different approach would be to tell your boss you have a plan for your new relationships. Let them know how you are going to contact them now and how are you going to stay in contact with them in the future. You will feel proud of yourself and you will report back to them when detail comes in.
If you are the business owner, let your staff know what great people you met and it might encourage them to get out and spread the word about how fabulous the workplace is. Perhaps there are staff in your business that need to network but you haven’t shared your plan with them. Get the plan out to them; show and explain to them how you see the big picture of the entire process of successful networking both in the short and long term.
We have some great tools available to us today, like Google. Research the contacts you have met – people are interesting if you take the time to discover their background. There is sooo much information to be found on Google! LinkedIn is another great tool – the opportunities for development are great, you just have to learn the best way to go about getting yourself out there. You will find lots of information on the Internet, in bookshops or just from talking with other business people. Twitter and Facebook are very quick and not difficult at all. But here is a novel idea!! Pick up the phone and give them a call. Ask them what they thought of the event, whether they attend other great events, or see if they want to hook up for a coffee (and make the time for the catch up while on the phone).
A client recently actioned the plan of having her own network events in her business. There was a plan put in place of how often the network events should be held, when and how invites should go out and a specific idea of what type of event it was going to be. The event was specifically for business women in their network and was not structured around business at all. The concept was about how taking care of yourself as a woman will help your professional career. She had two presenters: one was from a skin care company and the other was an undergarment representative! Why was it so successful? Because it was different to normal events; it was a specifically targeted list and everyone attending could relate to the importance of looking after yourself to give yourself confidence in the board room or at the next staff meeting. After the guests had left, the staff attending were all very proud of themselves. They felt in their comfort zone to be able to talk to people they didn’t know and the owner was very proud of herself and gained confidence in her ability to continue on to plan more events for the future.
So there we have it! Plan, structure, commitment to the plan, mindset, follow up and continually putting yourself in front of people. Easy!!! Go and conquer the world!