Ever wonder if networking, referral groups, and conferences are a waste of your time? Think about it...how many hours do you invest in deciding where to network, registering, getting there, "working the room," and then following up? How much real business do you generate from your networking efforts? How do you know where to invest and where to cut your losses?
If you're not thinking critically about how (or if!) to network, I guarantee that you're wasting a lot of time and money. Bonnie Lowe recently interviewed me for her upcoming e-book: Networkaholics Revealed! True Confessions of People Who Networked Their Way To Success (And How You Can Do the Same). Here's what we discussed:
B: What advice do you have for someone just learning about networking...or to make an experienced networker more effective?
K: My tops tips are...
1. Have a plan and use a system, based on your objective. Think about whom your "target audience" is and where you're most likely to find them. For example, if you want to reach small business, your local Chamber might be a good networking venue. If you're going after the federal government, the Chamber's probably not a good use of your time. If you're networking to change careers, think carefully about whom you want to meet. Then identify the events and organizations where you're most likely to run into them.
2. Don't expect people to respond immediately to your "offer." You have to build trust and a relationship. As Dan Williams, founder of The Networking Community likes to say, networking is a process, not an event. This means you'll have to show up consistently and build relationships outside of networking for the actual payoff to seeds you planted while networking. Before people will buy from you, they need to know and trust you. This doesn't happen overnight.
3. "Date" several organizations or groups, then commit to a small few where you can really have some visibility. Once you commit, take a leadership position to raise your visibility. Start out on a committee, then chair it, then run for office. Give lots of value in the form of information that makes people smarter and solves their problems...do not try to sell them on your services or push what you do.
4. Look at networking as a key piece of your overall marketing strategy, not the end-all and be-all. If you think it's all you need to do to grow your business, you won't get the results you want. Networking is a way to bring new "Strangers" into your revenue funnel, but you need other things to move them from Stranger to Acquaintance, to Friend, to Lover, to Loyal Partner. Read my article, How to Earn the Right, for details on this approach at
B: How has networking helped you build your career/ business?
K: I've found my best professional resources and key alliances through networking, including the company that powers my website/CRM system, my Virtual Assistant, and an artist that I collaborated with to create gorgeous holiday gifts for my clients. Real business has come through follow-up conversations, experiences, and high-value information sharing. Networking was the start.
B: Do you have a specific networking "success story" you'd like to share?
K: Yikes, there are so many. Just showing up at events where I know a Big Name is speaking is a way to eliminate many degrees of separation. I introduce myself, make a comment that's WIIFM-oriented (What's In It For Me?) for the Big Name and ask if s/he would be willing to talk further by phone. It's the first step to building the relationship. People are people, and if you're not out to waste their time and have something of value to discuss, they'll have that follow-up conversation.
B: Any other comments or tips for networkers?
K: My favorite trick for people who hate to network is to take a buddy. I'm an introvert myself, so I know how draining networking can be. Go with someone else and talk each other up ("So and so is the leading expert on helping people like yourself solve the following problems...in fact, she recently got an award for ______; you've just got to meet her...here, I'll introduce you..."). This makes it easy to meet people and you double your reach in a room when two of you are working on each other's behalf.