I wanted to discuss what networking means to you. So what does networking mean to you? When you go to a networking meeting what is your goal, what are you trying to achieve, and/or why are you going?
Network is a verb which means to connect to or operate with a network, or to link and operate interactively, or to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts especially to further one’s career. Note it does not say to go to a networking meeting and give out all your business cards and ask people to get clients for you.
What networking is and what networking isn’t
So remember that business is about relationships and you need to build relationships with people to gain clients and/or business partners. You do this so that they will want to work with you or use your services because they know, like and trust you. So when you go to a networking meeting, you seek out folks that might be good business referral partners, folks that you might want to do business with or that are your target market. However, before you push yourself into their ‘circle’ you are building those relationships.
Hey… if you don’t want to read this, watch this video that recaps this blog
Find business referral partners
Business referral partners are ones that would refer to you and you would refer to them, reciprocating. For example in my internet marketing industry, an ideal business partner for me would be a website designer or a business coach. Because I could refer to those people and they similarly refer easily to me. Another example would be a dentist and an orthodontist. These two wouldn’t fight for business but all patients could be ‘passed’ or referred back and forth to each other easily.
You also want to build relationships with those in the networking group so you could refer to them and they could refer to you, but that aren’t necessarily a complimentary business. Like the dentist and orthodontist aren’t business referral partners for me but could be part of my referral network so I still want to build relationships with them. In this network, you want to help educate them about your business and get to know their business so you could refer to them better. This is part of that relationship building. Note that I did not say they could do your work for you or that they could refer to you and you don’t bother with them. You could treat them like an extension of your sales team. Keep in mind though that any sales team works better if there are some incentives. This could be giving shout outs on social media, working to help refer back to them, sending them a thank you note or gift depending upon your referral – simple appreciation! Remember the Golden Rule? It needs to be a given take.
Ask for specific referrals
Another networking tip is to advise people what specifically you are looking for. For example, mention you are looking for the owner of the printing shop on the corner of X & Y… or I am looking for small business firms like attorneys, dentists, chiropractors or etc because those are good referral sources for me in that they have some overhead, they have a staff and they’re more likely to have the disposable income to use my services. If you’re giving people an idea of specifically what you’re looking for it helps your referral network to think of folks that may fit into that profile versus just saying, hey I need referrals and not giving an idea of what kind of referral you need.
How can I help you
When you start a conversation or relationship with asking how you can help them versus spouting off what you offer and how they can help you…. you are showing that you aren’t there just to get… but to GIVE and ‘givers gain’. If you start it off this way, I firmly believe they will be more inclined to want to help you and you are off to building a better relationship. Think of it as I scratch your back and you scratch mine. Give them a reason to want to work with you.
Create an intro that shares about you but provides value for them! BOOM! #value #networkingClick to tweet
Your introduction / elevator speech
Lastly is on the 30-second introduction or elevator speech. One of my pet peeves in networking is when the same person mentions the same 30 second intro that they always do. Remember that you may see these folks weekly or monthly and everyone is hearing you saying the same thing. It also gives us the time to tune out, and for that, I usually do. You have to give them a reason to listen which is something valuable, or something that they can use which gives them a reason to want to work with you.
What I like to do is to give a short snippet of who I am and what I offer and then offer a tip of how they can benefit their business. This way I am giving them something of value that they can use and also giving an example of how my business works. When people understand more about what you do, they are more likely to remember it, relate to it and refer you.
What networking really isn’t
I have already touched on some of the things above but we’ll recap them again here just to drive it home.
- It isn’t supposed to be about you
- You don’t walk into a newtorking group with the intention of selling to everyone there at that meeting
- While you are there to network, it has to be give and take… not gimme gimme gimme
- Don’t start off by saying you started a new job with XYZ and need you all to get me more clients. Really?
- Please do not use the same 30 second elevator speech each and every time – find ways to vary your speech, add value.
- This isn’t a business card convention
Side note – funny story about Pay Per Click v Paper Clip
Funny story about pay per click (PPC). I had been mentioning at a networking group that I offer pay per click services and for the longest time somebody was misunderstanding it and thought I kept saying paper clip. So, again this is a reiteration of the importance of explaining what you offer in different ways.
Business Cards – it deserves it’s own paragraph!
Please do NOT walk into a networking group and hand out your business cards. Yes it is great that you have a stack of business cards that you have on you at all times (because you ARE a business owner) but that does not mean that you handed to every person you meet. It is usually a good idea to ask somebody else what they do and then in return, hopefully, they will ask you what you do. Then, IF they’re interested in you and/or your services, they’ll ask for your business card and this would be a great time to ask for theirs because that person is probably interested in what you have to offer so you could follow up with them.
Networking isn’t about ‘making it rain’ business cards so Stop Doing That! #networking #tipsClick to tweet
It is not about ‘making it rain’ with business cards – please don’t do this. Similarly, when you go to a networking group, make sure you DO have business cards. Too often I ask for somebody’s business card because I’m interested in their services or want to contact them and they reply, I don’t have any or I just ran out. Are you kidding… you are at a networking meeting, why do not have business cards? Are you not wanting to grow your business?
What do YOU do at networking meetings that has helped you?
Hopefully this has helped you by explaining what networking is, what it isn’t and how to improve your networking. Should you have any tips or tricks of how you ‘DO’ networking, please share in the comments below! Contact me with any questions about networking, search engine optimization or anything internet marketing.