When you think of networking, the visual is usually you, surrounded by people throwing their business cards in your face. Not something that makes you want to run out and start networking, right?
But, I’m here to tell you that networking is not like that and should never be like that. Personally, I love networking. I’ve used it to steadily and consistently build my business and increase my bottom line. Since I’m an extrovert, I’ve never been wary of meeting new people, however, I had to learn the right way to network so that it’s a WIN/WIN for both parties. Instead of subtracting from your overall marketing strategy; used the right way, networking can become a consistent client-getting resource.
In my book, UN-Market Your Business: 10 Ways for Savvy Entrepreneurs to Stand Out, Stop Struggling, and Start Profiting, I go through ten strategies that will help you market your business successfully. Although I don’t have a specific chapter for networking, the book infuses networking into almost every single strategy. To make networking a successful part of your marketing toolkit, there are some key elements you need to include:
1. Business Cards?
I don’t actually carry business cards anymore. During my years of networking, I’ve collected hundreds of cards and although I go through them and contact people that I want to get to know better, most business owner’s business cards collect dust on someone else’s desktop. To avoid the “dust collector syndrome,” for my own cards, I ask people that I am interested in getting to know, for their card. Then I make notes on the card as to where I met them and what interested me about them. After the encounter, I connect with them and set up a Virtual Coffee, where we can get to know each other better, along with learning more about each other’s business. My virtual coffees have resulted in new business, new connections, and new business colleagues in a variety of industries.
2. Remember the WIIFM Station
The universal station that everyone is tuned into is WIIFF—What’s In It For Me. When you meet people at a networking event, keep that station in mind, it will help you gain clarity around whether or not this is someone you want to get to know better. The best way to do this is to be genuinely interested in what the other person does and who their target audience is. People love to talk about themselves, it’s part of human nature. So, asking them about their business; what they do, who they serve, and what products or services they offer helps you to determine if the next step of getting to know them better is warranted. During your brief chat, you can determine if this is someone that you will mesh with, want as a part of your tribe, and be excited to know. You can tell a lot about someone while speaking with them. Five to ten minutes is plenty of time, remember there are others to meet and greet.
3. Have a Plan
There are as many different reasons to attend a networking event as there are events themselves. The best way for you to achieve success with the ones you attend is to have a plan in place before you decide which events to attend.
Your plan should include:
- The type of person you want to connect with,
- The number of people you want to meet,
- And what you want to walk away with.
For example, when I meet someone and give my elevator spiel or USP: Unique Selling Proposition statement. I watch for the reaction and the next question. If the person self-selects themselves and wants to know more, I know that I have a good candidate for a virtual coffee. This means that they could either be a possible client, a referral to a client, or I could be a referral source for them.
You may not be able to ascertain either of the above-mentioned reactions in your short chat, but you can always flush things out in the virtual coffee. Even if the virtual coffee does not result in a client or referral, if the two of you mesh, you will have added someone to your scouting team who will actively look for opportunities to send clients or referrals your way. And you’ll be able to do the same for them.
Successful networking actually involves a two-part strategy. Once you meet with someone, you start the relationship-building process, which is the key to either doing business with them, getting referrals from them or maintaining a connection to them. The next step is to solidify the relationship so that referrals become a natural part of the relationship because both of you want success for the other person.
My good friend, colleague, and fellow networker, Rhonda Hudgins, founder of Metro Atl & Beyond, has created a superb resource that will help you immensely on your networking success journey. She just opened up Celebrating Connections 2018, a 2-day event where you will discover and celebrate the immense joy and rewards of connecting with like-minded individuals who not only share your vision with their tribe but actually work to promote you. You will also learn the How, Where, When, What, and Who that makes connections valuable, both personally and professionally.
Confirmed speakers and panellists include:
EMCEE: Katlyn Moncrief Bryan, aka Koach Katlyn, Mrs. Atlanta 2018
- Amanda Evans – Suzanne Evans’ sister and Senior Vice President at Suzanne Evans Coaching
- Dannella Burnett – (Owner Encore Elite Events, Speaker and Author)
- Koach Katlyn –Katlyn Bryan, Mrs. Atlanta 2018
- Rhonda R. Hudgins – (Networking Strategist, Founder of Metro ATL & Beyond and Owner of Metro Brag Bags)
- Dottie Bailey – (Owner Bailey’s Bartending)
- Keith Ivey – (Manager Keith Ivey & Associates)
- Corey Moore – (Founder ProNetworker)
- More to come. . .
Interested in sponsoring or becoming a vendor? Contact me and I’ll send you all the details right away.