If you use networking as a part of your marketing strategy, you should be thinking about some key points.
* Who do you want to connect with? Who do you want to connect with? and are you likely to connect with them in some way by networking?
* Who do they want to connect with, and how and where do they make connections? There are many different types of networking. For instance, you’re unlikely to find the CEO of a $100 MM company at a leads group, but you may find someone that is connected to that CEO.
* What’s your networking “budget”? By that I mean, what is your plan for how, how often, and where you will commit your networking resources? There are enough opportunities that you could use all of your time networking, but is that your best strategy?
* The flip side is that a plan also means consistency. Can you build productive relationships by showing up only on a sporadic basis for the groups and events you commit to?
* The Golden Rule of Networking. How do you want to be treated while networking? How much more fun is a networking event when someone takes an active interest in you? So guess how they feel when you take an active interest in them?
* When you are networking, do you have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented, Time-frame related) goals? Or do you just waltz in without thinking about what you really want to achieve?
* What is it that makes you captivating to someone else? Actively listening to them. Remember this acronym: W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?) Do more listening than telling.
* Building relationships requires building trust. At a networking event, building trust means just that – you build it, you don’t jump into it. Earn the right to more of the other person’s time by being worthy of their trust.
* Find common ground. Sometimes you can establish common ground based on a single shared interest. How much effort to you put in to having interests outside of your profession that might help you find common ground quickly with fellow networkers?
* What if your primary purpose was to help other people get connected to people you know that could help them? If you believe like I do that an active interest in helping others will be “repaid”, this is the way to do it.
* Follow up, follow up, and follow up. By the way, did I mention following up? The excitement of an opportunity identified at a networking event wears off very quickly in the absence of follow up. Create a system for following up within 24 hours and see how your results improve.
* Networking at the Speed of Light: Think social media is a fad? Think again. If you don’t have a social media strategy, create one. While you’re sitting there convincing yourself that it won’t work for you, millions of people are out there making it work for them.
Do you want to make networking work for you? Then make it work for others.