Effective networking: a spider’s web

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The trend for people to go to networking events to generate business does not seem to have lost its momentum. Whilst undoubtedly such activity should form part of the marketing tool box, to some extent returns for activity seem to have varying degrees of success.

In principle effective networking is about connecting with those people you would like to do business with, but there are three common mistakes people make when networking. The first is the belief that they are going to make an immediate sale. The second is not attending events suitable for their business needs. The third is that networkers seem too focused on getting an immediate sale from their poor unsuspecting target, rather than the concept that effective marketing is a process or more of journey.

How then can you become an effective networker? To begin with you need to know who you want to do business with and what networks such people attend. For many with a business to business proposition, Chamber networks, business clubs and a growing number of franchised networks, are fine. For businesses looking to reach a niche market however, more research needs to be done in order to find events that are relevant to their sector.

Having identified the best network for your business, the next step is to prepare yourself for networking. For many the thought of networking is daunting, but with the right preparation it can become an enjoyable experience. Here are some simple tips for increasing confidence and promoting your professionalism:

  • Research those attending, perhaps using social media
  • Arrive on time
  • Dress and conduct yourself in a professional manner
  • Wear a name badge
  • Take plenty of business cards

Often networking events require those attending to make an ‘elevator speech’; a two to three minute pitch about their business. Successful pitches tend to focus on the benefits and/or solutions they can provide for their customers rather than the job they do or who they work for.  For example, if a Partner from Streets said they were an accountant the elevator would probably stop between floors.  If, however, they said they help owner managed businesses create wealth and save tax a conversation might spark up, taking the elevator to the top floor.  Prepare your speech in advance and test it out on your colleagues.

Good marketing is often about persistence as well as technique – networking is no different.  It is therefore important to recognise that the networking process is only one part of winning new business.

It is surprising how many people meet potential customers at an event, exchange cards and then never contact them. After every event you attend it is important to ensure you follow up your new leads and keep to your promises.

Business is rarely won overnight.  Remember, networking is more about building meaningful long terms relationships as opposed to quick sales.