Networking is one of the most cost-effective and reliable methods of growing your business. The problem is that many people approach traditional networking very tactically and measure success by the amount of business cards they collect or the number of people they connect with on social media. Then they move too quickly into a sales process and wonder why people aren’t returning their calls. Maybe that sounds like a good approach to you, but after going to hundreds of networking events and interacting extensively on social media, I can tell you this just isn’t enough and you are wasting your time.
To be truly effective, networking should be managed like a strategic business activity. With so many things competing for your attention, it is so easy to get distracted. To be successful, it is necessary to have a plan to approach networking in a way that maximizes ensure results. People do better when they have a structured process to follow and this also applies to networking.
To boost your networking success, you need to start by having networking goals and defining what you want to accomplish with your networking efforts. This alone will help you clarify what networking events you should attend and where on social media you should be hanging out. You can’t do everything, so focusing your efforts will help you to maximize your time and money that you spend on networking activities.
Next you need to have a powerful, unique and memorable personal brand so you stand out from all the other networkers. Networking involves making connections with others and having a polished lasting impression in person as well as on your website and on social media is critical to differentiate you from your competitors. What makes you different? Why do your clients and customers like working with you or using your product? Why should someone use your business over another one? This is the type of information you need to convey in your marketing message.
Now, you need to develop your networking strategy based on your business objectives so you have a a better chance of meeting the right people and are spending your time in the right places. An effective networking process involves meeting people in person and online and building meaningful and profitable relationships through regular engagement with your connections. A relationship can begin in person, on the phone, via your website, through social media, any number of ways and your networking strategy needs to encompass those activities that will give you the best chances of forming connections with the right people who are essential to your business growth.
Many people drop the ball with the follow-up. Not only is having a follow-up strategy critical, this action is surprisingly often overlooked. The simple act of just sending a thank-you note will set you apart, but also developing a process to continue to engage with your connections will increase the effectiveness of your networking.
Finally you should measure your progress so you are not wasting your time. If you are like most business people, you are maxed out! You run out of time daily and get caught up in all kinds of chaos during your work day. Networking is important, but only if you are able to do it effectively. The only way to know if it is working for you is to evaluate your progress and determine if the time and investments you are making on networking is paying off with more sales. This is something that needs to be measured over time because it takes time to build meaningful and profitable relationships.
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