Article from Sandra Garlick 08.01.15
When I first started my business I embarked upon a networking campaign by attending as many events as I could! It was pretty much a scatter-gun approach with no strategic plan in place, a small budget and not really knowing what to expect.
I joined the local Chamber of Commerce, a couple of breakfast networking clubs and searched out anything that had a “networking” theme. I became the “Queen of Networking”!
It was only when I had been trading for a year, and the membership renewal invoices started to arrive, that I realised that I had no idea if any of these events had resulted in any new contacts or customers. I decided at that point to put systems in place to monitor how effective my networking was. I then had a great way of knowing which networking events were most effective for my business.
I strongly believe that networking has three main benefits:
1. Growing your contact database – contacts are essential for expanding your business network of potential customers and referrers
2. Building relationships – trusted relationships take time to build and are essential to business growth
3. Being remembered for the right reasons – being helpful and a sharer of information will reap rewards in the future
For me, networking isn’t just about “getting the sale”. So often, I am asked “How many leads did you get?”. In fact, I positively avoid the sales type approach and hard follow up. I simply link up via Linkedin and only email if I’ve promised to do so.
I spend the majority of my networking time building trusted relationships, listening to others, getting to know people and offering help, entirely without agenda. If one of these relationships recommends me in the future or becomes a customer, that is fantastic.
I do recall on one occasion receiving a phone call from a lady that had kept my details for four years. All she said was, “When I first met you, you were so helpful and I always remembered that…now I need your services.”
I now ensure that I only attend networking events or renew networking memberships where I know that I will build those relationships.
Selecting the right networking events and ensuring that your networking is effective is key to the growth of your business. You need to attend events where you are going to meet, or be referred to, potential customers.
It’s nice to go out every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner but as well as affecting your cash flow…and your waistline, it will also affect your availability to carry out your work or simply be a waste of your time out of the office.
Sometimes it difficult to attend a networking event once, or even choose the right one to go to, and make an informed decision whether it is right for you.
The following 7 tips may help you:
1. Ask someone to recommend an event or networking group to you. Ideally, one that they have found effective. Ask if you can go along with them;
2. If you are attending an event for the first time, speak to the host in advance and ask them more details about the event, the type of people who attend, the format and if they can introduce you to people;
3. Ensure that you speak to as many people as possible while you are there and find out how they have benefited from attending;
4. Do some preparation in advance and think about your particular goals for attending the event and what you want to achieve as an outcome. Be specific…”I would like to meet 3 new business contacts”;
5. Make some notes as soon as you get back to the office… when it is fresh in your mind. Ask yourself some questions such as “Did I meet any good contacts?”, “Did I enjoy the event”, “Would I recommend it to someone else?”;
6. Keep an ongoing record of events you attend and more importantly the cost implications. Ensure that you monitor the cost versus benefit.
7. Have fun and enjoy your networking.
Sandra Garlick frequently speaks about “Networking for Success” and will be speaking at the FSB’s B2B Expo on this topic on Tuesday 12th January 2016 at The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. You can book your free place here.
Follow @SandraGarlick on Twitter and #Periscope