How can a time-strapped businessperson figure out which networking events she should attend and which she should let go by the wayside?
The answer: Develop a networking strategy.
Here are three easy–but definitely essential–questions you need to answer in order to create a plan that will work for you.
Who Are My Best Prospects?
It’s important to know that each target market will have a strategy that requires you to network in different places. If you’re not sure who your target market is, look at your list of past clients. What industries were they in? How long had they been in business? Were your clients even businesses to begin with, or have you worked mostly with consumers?
Once you’ve put together a profile of your past clients, ask people close to you for patterns you may have overlooked and get their input on who might be a good fit for your business.
Where Can I Meet My Best Prospects?
As you begin targeting specific niche markets, there are other venues and opportunities that fall outside the typical networking event. Here are some examples of specific target markets and where you should network to find people in these markets:
Small-business owners–chamber of commerce, local business association, referral groups
Representatives from big corporations in your area–service clubs, nonprofit groups, volunteer work, homeowners associations
Consumers–your kids’ events: Little League, Boy Scouts and so forth
Whom, Exactly, Do I Want To Meet?
Even if you can’t name the people you want to meet, the better you can descibe them, the greater the chance you’ll get to meet your ideal contact.
Be as specific as possible when asking for a contact because it focuses the other person’s attention on details that are more likely to remind him of a specific person rather than if you asked, “Do you know anyone who needs my services?”
Networking works. It’s just a matter of developing a strategy that puts you in contact with the right people. That’s exactly what the three questions above will help you do.