Since the recession hit – and even before – many small business owners have increased their networking as an inexpensive way to directly increase business and facilitate referrals through new business contacts.
Often, people get disillusioned when they don’t get immediate results. Make sure you are following best networking practices by focusing on two important elements of networking: pick your groups and opportunities carefully and focus on follow-up.
Choosing Networking Opportunities
There are two basic types of networking opportunities:
The first type of networking opportunity are events that bring together a variety of individuals with no connection other than they are there to network. A good example of this type of event is the Louisville Charr’d Networking event that meets the first Thursday of each month at the Marriott Hotel off Hurstbourne Lane, south of I-64. (Contact Brad Sublett for details.)
These types of events are good for expanding one’s pool of contacts for referral purposes. Occasionally, one will pick up a direct piece of business, but the odds are long for doing so.
Many networkers focus on communicating what they do themselves. I would suggest that it’s more important to find out what the OTHER PERSON does so you can help them by connecting them to potential leads or other referral sources. And it is more important that you get THEIR business card than giving them yours!
Once you have their business card, it is crucial to send them a “great to meet you” email or note immediately after the event. Cite the event where you met them and tell them what impressed you about their business. Then, give them a brief summary of what you do for future reference.
Then, immediately (within a day or two of meeting them) reach out to them on LinkedIn (and Facebook and Twitter, depending on your business) and connect with them while the meeting is fresh on their mind.
By getting them into your CRM and connecting on social media, you are in a position to continue communicating with them by email over time and to dialog with them on social media.
Next time: Focusing on Relationship-Building Networking Opportunities.
Have questions or want to discuss anything further? Call me at (502) 897-3020 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Networking!