So you've decided to join a networking community/group! Congratulations! It’s a great first step to marketing the greatest product you have to offer, “YOU”!
I am a firm believer that your "involvement”, or lack thereof, in the networking community/group you join, is THE key to your success or demise in business. On occasion I hear, ‘I haven’t received any business through XYZ networking group.’ The first thing I ask is, “How involved are you?”
Most people still practice the dinosaur-approach to networking - bring your business cards and leave your personal life at home. Wayyyyy back in the day, I used to bring 50 business cards to an event, and if I passed out 30 I thought I had a successful networking experience.
I would proceed with my business card first, assuming they wanted my card, a handshake, got their card in return and went on to the next person. Rarely did I get a call the next day and even worse, rarely did I follow up with anyone whose card I received. No matter how many times I heard and learned about follow-up techniques and what to do with the cards I had acquired, it rarely lead me to new business. The fact is, I never made an authentic connection with the person, aside from their company name and title. My approach was wrong! My problem? I left my personality and my natural instinct to want to know the person with whom I might be interested in doing business, at home. You’ve heard of “Speed Networking” right? It takes networking to a whole new level of WRONG! Why? There is no relationship building in the experience.
Some networking organizations give members the opportunity to be listed in their business directory. It’s considered a “value point” for your membership. But it isn’t “valuable” unless you’re connecting outside of the directory and if the networking organization isn’t actively marketing its directory to consumers. If you’re relying on the directory alone, you’re not using your membership to your full potential. Business directories should give you an opportunity to include certain things in your profile that lend to your credibility and expertise, like, testimonials, business ratings, links to your website, contributions and articles you have published on the networking organization’s website, etc. As well, the directory should be available to all consumers, whether they are a member or not. This is what it is to actively market members.
When networking, you should be able to tell the person(s) with whom you are meeting, ‘check out my profile at ……..com”. This approach gives you the opportunity to market the networking group with which you are involved. If there is no time to "market" your business, they can learn more from your profile.
If you’re not into attending networking events, hopefully your networking organization’s business directory offers you the opportunity to have an extensive profile, giving you a better chance to connect with consumers.
Connections cascade into referrals. Don't get down on the networking group if you're not getting business directly from members. While you may not acquire a new client during a networking event, you may connect with someone who can refer you to a friend, colleague or family member. People you meet at networking events will often lead you to new clients. It may take a moment, but business will come eventually.
Sometimes networking events are a necessity. The more obscure your profession, the more you have to connect outside of the business directory. You should be actively involved in the networking community by attending networking events, hosting a networking event at your location, speaking during an event, offering coupons or raffle items to be given away at events.
Mary B. Relotto
Dames Bond LLC
Founder, CEO, and Central Ohio Chapter Director
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