5 Ways to Create a More Effective Networking Strategy
After attending several networking events in my business community, I have discovered that you start to run into the same people. This can be exciting, because you have the opportunity to develop sustainable relationships. On the other hand, it may keep your network contained and give you a false sense of relationship building.
If you continue to run into familiar faces or find yourself attending the same networking events, now may be the time to start developing a networking strategy that allows you to meet new people and create more mutually beneficial relationships. If networking doesn’t turn into contacts that turn into relationships that turn into business that turn into profit, it’s no longer networking. You are now just hanging with friends.
Here are 5 ways to develop a more effective networking strategy.
1. Intentionally seek out new networking groups in other industries or different areas. Be willing to make a drive to meet new people. This may help you get a fresh perspective on your business and gain new clients or partners. Unique networking opportunities go beyond the traditional meeting. Activities such as community service projects, industry focused conferences, business mixers, startup groups and charity events can be great ways to meet new people. When you network in the same business circles, effective feedback related to your business now becomes limited. Your contacts have seen and heard everything regarding your company (at least they think). Your ideas are no longer new and fresh to them, therefore their perspectives may be biased. Meeting new people allows you to get different perspectives on your business.
2. Follow-up. We’re going old school with this one. When you meet new people and get their telephone numbers, actually call them. Email works, but a phone call may be more personal and garner action. Think of it as a courtship. The first part of courting is getting to know someone. Invite them to lunch or another business related event. Make sure you are inviting them for a specific reason. Offer them something. “You said you are looking to connect with content writers. I am a part of this organization for women in media. You should come to our next meeting.” This lets them know that you were listening to their needs. That’s a great start to a sustaining relationship.
3. Incorporate social media into your networking strategy. Connect with your new contacts by following them on social media including their blogs. Comment on their pages, and inspire them to follow you. Initiate and engage in online conversation. Remind them of your meeting and introduce ways to reconnect.
4. Determine how much time you will spend networking. Although networking is a vital part of being a business owner, over half of your time should not be spent doing it. Remember, more work should be done developing and maintaining a product or service that meets your customers’ needs, marketing and other business practices. Decide how many networking events you will attend and networking organizations you will join. Give your best to those. Don’t spread yourself too thin so that you are not able to develop meaningful relationships that reap results.
5. Get involved. Once you find networking opportunities that are great fits for you, participate! Be consistent and intentional with your involvement. All relationships should be mutually beneficial. Offer your talents and resources to groups and organizations by being in committees, connecting with the leaders to see how you can help and being present at meetings and events. We also recommend that you attend meetings and events of fellow networkers. Showing your support may leave a lasting impression on your new contacts.