Networking Your Net Worth: How to Ace the Networking Game
If you stop and think about advertising in 2018, you undoubtedly focus on your web-based options—email marketing, social media, and SEO (or search engine optimization) may come to mind, and it’s true that they play a pivotal part. That said, how much time do you spend thinking about getting actual face-time with your clientele?
If you answered “not much”, you could be missing out on a viable marketing opportunity. Networking events may seem like the way of the past, but the truth is that they’re still very relevant today, particularly now that customers are looking to have a genuine emotional connection with the companies they support. You don’t want to sleep on the benefits they can bring to your business, so read on to find the best ways to put networking to work for you.
Networking? Who needs it?
Examining networking from a purely marketing perspective makes the perks seem like common sense—you attend a seminar or event, you meet some folks, and you attempt to convince them to try out your product or service. As a business owner, any new contact you make is a potential sales lead. You might even be the type to keep your business cards in your back pocket to capitalize on any circumstance that could generate interest in your brand. Networking events are just making a bunch of contacts in one shot, right? Sure, but the advantages of this advertising method don’t stop there.
First of all, not everyone at the event is just another consumer. Often, other professionals are in attendance at these types of activities, and getting in touch with them can boost your business in two ways:
1. They may want to team up with you. It’s possible that other businesspeople may see some potential in what you have to offer, causing them to want to invest in your company in one way or another. Whether it’s through a service they can provide or an outright conglomeration of your two organizations, you may find the business boost while networking that you didn’t know you needed. Similarly, if you’re on the lookout for a particular pro, you can take the initiative and ask them to come aboard.
2. They may have an in with your target market. Say for example that you’re a toymaker, and you pop by a networking brunch only to run into an entrepreneur that has a successful line of toddler fashions. Take this opportunity to learn from one another! Ask them about their marketing strategy and the results they’re finding, and feel free to take a few notes of your own. It’s possible that you’re after the same group of parents, and if they’re getting an amazing response, you’re going to want to find out how. It’s also possible that those parents need some new toys for their little ones, so making a good impression could put you at the top of their referral list.
In addition to the advantages that can lead straight to dollar signs, networking events can help keep you current on new trends and developments in your specific industry, even if they’re coming from your competitors. The market craze that they’re running across now could be at your doorstep tomorrow, so it’s wise to be prepared. On a more personal level, networking events have a way of making you feel like the boss you are, and the contacts you make at them might just turn into lifelong friends.
How do you get started?
By now, you may have spent hours communicating with like-minded VIPs online, which may have previously had you thinking that an in-person chat was superfluous. The truth is that you’ll never make an internet impression as strong as the one you’ll make when you look your contact in the eye, and now that you know all the good it can do, you’re probably wondering how to get involved.
If you’re already social media savvy, why not check your favorite platform for an upcoming networking event in your area? This could be industry-specific or open to owners of all businesses big and small, but it might just give you the head start you need to get comfortable with the process. Is one of your pals an entrepreneur too? Ask them if they know of any networking groups that you can join—that way, not only do you get to mix and mingle with like-minded folks, but you have a friend to fall back on if you get too shy.
Additionally, your local Chamber of Commerce could prove to be a valuable networking resource. This lobbying group was put together to aid businesses across the country, and they often organize educational and social networking opportunities as a means of helping companies succeed. Check out their schedule in your community, and you’ll be making contacts in no time.
How do you network like an old pro?
Just because you’re new to the game doesn’t mean you have to act the part, and if you’re looking to get the most out of your next networking luncheon, there are some etiquette rules you should be mindful of before you even walk in the door:
1. Don’t waste time figuring out the end game. Like any relationship, the one that you develop with potential clients or fellow businesspeople needs to come about organically. You’re all there to foster a successful organization, but that doesn’t mean you need to walk around with a calculator trying to ascertain someone’s worth or importance. On the contrary—greet everyone you meet with a friendly and open attitude, listen to what they have to say, and once you’ve got all the facts, you can decide who to further invest your time into. Even if it seems like they provide zero benefit to your business, you never know what role they could eventually come to play.
2. Be choosy with your events. After you’ve attended a few different networking activities, you will have a wealth of experience to base your opinions on. If you don’t feel like you’ve made any headway at the last few seminars you’ve sat through, don’t feel obligated to be in attendance every time they come to town. The old saying states that time is money, and you don’t ever want to waste either, so make sure you’re selecting the events that work best for you.
3. When you find a good fit, go for it. If you’ve found the group that has yielded more new contacts than you know what to do with, you’ve hit your networking sweet spot, and it’s more than okay to stay there. As a matter of fact, it’s recommended that you get more involved—show the collective your commitment to their cause, and say thanks for the benefits you’ve received by being present and doing your part. You might just be the contact that someone else has been waiting to meet!
Getting involved in networking can make a huge difference in your marketing result, but that’s only one piece of a vast and varied puzzle. If you need help putting each individual section together, rest assured that marketing companies have the tools to do just that. Put them on your list of contacts, and let their expertise lead the way to greater business gains.
If you are looking for more information about how to develop and network your brand throughout various organizations, please check out our Branding Development Worksheet for free!