By Saralyn Collins
Designing a complete and thorough marketing plan involves many different elements. It is very easy in today’s world to be sure to include all the newest technology strategies and forget strategies that have been around for years.
I would never, for one minute, insinuate that you do NOT need social media, excellent website, teleclasses, webinars, blogs, and all the other very useful strategies. These are critical if you want to attract today’s consumer in as many ways as possible.
But – let’s never forget the value of face-to-face networking and how it is the ground floor for everything else you might put into your marketing plan.
Have you heard “showing up is half the battle?” Well, when it comes to networking with people to grow your business, they were wrong.
Showing up isn’t even the half of it!
So if effective networking isn’t about just showing up, what is it?
It breaks my heart to attend so many networking meetings where many of the same people show up over and over – and yet – after all this time, I still really have no true understanding of what that person does or why I should be interested in doing business with him or her.
OK – I know that may sound slightly harsh to some of you – but it is the truth. It confounds me that people waste so much time, energy and money going to network event after network event … and at the end of the month or quarter, nothing has changed in their business. They have not made any serious new connections nor have they made any referrals for others, nor have they provided support to others in any way … nor have they gained any new business.
If nothing is happening, why do people continue to network over and over in the vague hopes that something will change and things will start happening?
First, they continue because they have been told that networking is an important strategy for every businessperson. (It is!) They hope that the next time they go to a networking meeting, the right person will be there and in the right mood to listen to their explanation of what they do and surely—at some point along the way—will be interested enough to ask some more questions and maybe with luck, want to do business with you. (Good luck!)
Hoping “something will happen” is NOT a viable strategy. So why then do so many operate their business and execute their marketing plan on that “hope” and nothing more concrete than that?
Use these tips to make the most from each network opportunity.
1. Join the right groups. Time and energy are as valuable as money. Seek out those organizations whose members actually will help develop your business.
2. Plan in advance. Don’t go to a networking function unprepared. Know in advance what will be the format of the event so you can be prepared to shine.
3. Know the culture of the group. Know how the event is run so you can be ready. Know before you go!
4. Get organized. NEVER forget plenty of biz cards and bring something to write with and on. Do not expect to remember everyone and everything.
5. Bring a business card holder. Treat each business card with respect. Don’t pull your crumpled card from your pocket nor stuff someone’s card in your pocket.
6. Don’t push your card or collateral on someone. Quality is much better than quantity.
7. Develop a conversation before introducing your “elevator speech.” It is best to create a relaxed and personal environment in which to introduce your services.
8. Seek out valuable contacts. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Actively seek out others and let them know you have an interest in their business. Determine first how you can be of service to them.
9. Debrief. Take quick notes at the networking event to remind yourself to do something you promised or as a means to remember a specific conversation with someone. Jot down your observations for follow up later.
10. Follow up. The real value of the networking event is found as much in the follow-up as in the participation. Learn effective follow up skills and then use them regularly.
Practice your networking skills at our Business Magnet lunch ‘n learn the 3rd Thursday of every month. Find the link on www.wncwoman.com each month. For more information, contact Saralyn at 828-649-8011 or Saralyn@SaralynCollins.com.