When I Began My Networking Journey
When I began my networking journey, I attended any and all networking events as time permitted. Every event was fair game! Today I am much more strategic in my networking endeavors. I discovered which events and organizations gave me the best return on my investment of time as well as how to be an effective, caring networker.
In order to know where to begin you must first understand what networking is and why it is important to grow your business. Networking in its purest form is simply talking to people, making connections and developing rapport to grow our circle of influence. Business networking is essentially the same except that our primary objective in business networking is to help us grow our businesses. For most of us, building a network means meeting people we can do business with or who will do business with us, or refer people who will do business with us, are our ultimate goals.
In fact, some of the best networks are those created by people who own and run their own businesses. When you create valuable networking relationships, you build them on a foundation of mutual trust, sharing knowledge, experiences and resources to help one another grow your businesses by either referring one another or doing business directly with one another.
It works like this: If you do a good job, one customer might tell three to five of her colleagues, family and friends about you. Whereas, when you build a network of say 10 to 20 strong advocates, they may each tell only one person about your, however your “exposure” is now more than doubled – With the right network, the ultimate in “word of mouth” marketing takes place. You promote your network, and your network promotes you.
I host events – I started an event called Networking in Memphis more than 2 years ago at Jack Robinson Art Gallery. It is an intimate gathering of women and men of all different interest and wish to expand their own circles. Have you ever attended a BNI or Le Tip or other form of structured networking groups? Perhaps you are already a member of a similar group. If not, you might consider becoming involved in one to the fastest growing business networking concepts around. These groups invite business professionals to join on an exclusive basis. That means, that if you are a chiropractor and become a member of one of these groups, no other chiropractor will be invited or allowed to join.
These groups have regularly scheduled meetings (anywhere from monthly to weekly) with a list of rules and objectives to which you must abide. In some cases, a minimum number of referrals are required to participate. In others, simply doing business with one or more in the network is all that is asked of the members. However, keep in mind that for this type of networking to be worthwhile for all parties, each must make every effort to do business with other members of the group.
If this form of structured networking isn’t for you, there are other options for finding potential networking venues and partners. Here are some ideas to help you on your way to networking success.
a. Develop a joiner’s mentality. By that I mean, don’t just sign up to get our name on a roster. REALLY JOIN. Get involved. Participate in discussions, events and BE VISIBLE. The saying “out of sight, is out of mind,” holds true when it comes to networking. I have been involved in groups and decided to take a hiatus from attending for 2 to 3 months (and sometimes more) only to have people come up to me and tell me they forgot the name of my business so they had to find someone else either through a friend or through the local phone book. BUMMER!
b. Get involved in a community service groups.
c. Volunteer with a non-profit organization, whose mission you are passionate about and believe in. People who have similar passions will want to do business with you.
d. Look for ways to cross-promote with businesses that complement yours. For instance, a spa might join with a health food store or restaurant and promote their products and services for staying healthy. A salon might join a florist to promote weddings or proms and a realtor might join with a mortgage broker to promote a “one-stop” experience for home buyers. At networking events you can look for people who can help you with that.
e. Interview others. A great way for me to network is to interview people for projects I am working on. Since most people are flattered when you ask their opinion about something or experiences in life, this has been a great means of increasing my own circle for various reasons. I might interview a woman or a man about an article or book I am writing, or a seminar I am developing. People love to share their stories.
Make it a point of attending one networking event a month; make a list of the people you know, the organizations you have heard and read about and the companies who currently do business with you. The best networking begins with planning and taking action. Being strategic in your planning is important to your ultimate success as an effective, caring networker.