NetworkingFor some, the word alone is cringe worthy. For others it's an invigorating breeze. Regardless of the way you feel about it, it's necessary for business development. Below are five tips and tricks to become successful at networking.
1. Scope Out the SceneAs a professional, one of our key attributes is the ability to think strategically. Networking strategy is taking the time to identify your target market and identify the events they attend. By putting a strategy behind the execution of networking you are setting yourself up for success at the foundational planning stages. Attempt to find events where your key referral sources are or your target customers will reside. If you attend an event and it isn't everything you hoped for, it is important to remember not to give up.
2. Do Your HomeworkJust like a professional athlete studies their opponent in the days leading up to a game, networking and business development is very similar. The willingness to take the time ahead of an event to do some research can make all the difference when attending the actual event.
Some things to consider prior to attending an event:
- Connect with the attendees via social media (usually LinkedIn is the best option, followed by Twitter).
- Do a Google search on key attendees and companies to find relevant or interesting news.
- Understand the schedule of the event and where the opportunities are for networking (sometimes you cannot make an entire event, but attending the networking portion can be the most fruitful.)
- Identify allies who will also be at the event as they may be able to be the source of introductions at the actual event.
- By taking the time to do your homework, you are setting yourself up for success.
3. Be PreparedIt amazes me how many professional service providers attend events without at least a business card. It is so important when you're going to take the time to meet someone to ensure you can connect with them after. If it is appropriate bring other marketing materials such as a brochure or flyer to hand out if the opportunity arises. Regardless of your method for success, ensure you are prepared.
4. Set Specific Measurable GoalsWhen you think about networking events, there needs to be an outcome -- what do you desire to achieve by attending? The natural answer is to say new business. While that is a good outcome, look at it strategically. Set the goal of talking to 10 people, knowing that a meaningful conversation with three of them is considered a success. One of the misconceptions is when people go to events and feel it didn't go well because they ended up with three to five business cards yet they talked to twenty people. If you think about it, that's pretty successful.
5. Follow-Up and Follow ThroughWhat you do after an event is just as important as the strategic planning that went into identifying it in the beginning. Follow up and follow through are crucial to business development.
Some ideal follow up ideas are:
- Connect via social media
- Send an email with some type of ask in it
- Send an old fashioned letter
- Mail a package with something memorable (this is usually saved for very important contacts that you meet at an event.)
- Pick up the phone and make a phone call