Experienced networkers know that the fastest way to expand and enhance their network is to regularly attend gatherings where networking takes place. Having many people with overlapping interests within arm’s reach facilitates the process of making connections based on mutual benefit.
While flipping recently through Masters of Networking, a book I released back in 2000, I ran across an article contributed by my friends Cindy Mount and Jeremy Allen. The article outlines a great, six-part foundation for success at networking events, so I thought I’d share their outline with all of you here.
Attending the Networking Event
As every good networker knows, one of the fastest ways to grow your business quickly and successfully is through word-of-mouth marketing. That’s the fundamental reason networkers attend networking events. And people who have made a science of systematic networking keep six essentials in mind. Each time they attend an event, they have 1. a purpose, 2. a goal and 3. a plan, and they make sure to 4. execute the plan, 5. evaluate their efforts and 6. follow up on all contacts.
What’s your reason for attending the event? Do you expect to show up, shake hands and exchange business cards just to be sociable? No . . . your reason for being at the event should be because you see networking as a complete philosophy of doing business and living your life, and because you see that helping others is the best route to helping yourself. Keep this in mind at all times.
What is your destination? What do you need to accomplish at the event? What do you expect the outcome to be? How many contacts do you need, and in what kind of businesses? Do you need to become a gatekeeper as a step in obtaining your desired outcome? Think of professions, trades or business owners who would most likely hear of or see people who need your service or products, and target these people for your networking efforts.
Once you know your destination, you need a map to show you how to get there. A good networking plan will include these things:
Research. Whom do you have to meet? Where do they have lunch? What do their company’s annual plans say? What are some of the trends within your target industry?
Competition. Who are your competitors? What is their market share, and how much market share do you expect to capture? What edge does your competition have? What are your strengths and advantages?
Resources. What resources do you need, and where will you get them? Do you need guidance? Are your listening skills good enough to get you your money’s worth?
Backup. Do you need to recruit new contacts or associates who can take over some of your duties or help you reach your goals faster?
Schedule. How much time have you given yourself to achieve your goals? Do you have contingency plans in case you encounter problems along the way?
Plans don’t work unless they’re implemented. To be successful, you must begin executing your plan. Use a time management planner and project organizer that can show you a week at a glance. Mark dates when you expect certain results, then work backward to monthly, weekly and daily completion of specific objectives.
As you reach each checkpoint in your plan, stop and evaluate your results. If you find that a particular networking group is not meeting your goals, adjust your plans. You may need a new way to work the group, or you may need a new group. You may also need to consider learning a new skill or getting some help to meet your goals.
Make complete notes on everybody you meet, keep their business cards and brochures handy, and think about the potential of each new contact you’ve made. Begin making appointments to meet and work with these contacts as soon as practical. Don’t let a recent introduction grow cold and be forgotten.
The key word in “networking” is “work.” It takes time, effort and patience, but the payoff of powerful networking will be a personal marketing strategy that accelerates the achievement of your goals.