My recent statement that "networking is expensive and ineffective" unleashed a fury of angry emails. Some of my friends who run business networking organizations were quick to defend this popular marketing vehicle. Frankly, I still think networking doesnít work. At least the way itís done most of the time.
Before you to rush to crucify me for this comment let me explainÖ
Fact is majority of people have no clue how to make their networking count. They attend the wrong meetings, use boring self-introductions, canít recognize a good prospect if one stepped on their toe, don't know how to elicit interest in their service, give no value in conversations with those they meet, gobble down their rubber chicken, rush out and never follow-upÖ
Why even bother to pony up the cash and show up in the first place?
Does this sound too familiar? It certainly did for me when I was starting out. Instead of STRATEGICALLY SELECTING and LEVERAGING a couple of groups that could get me lots of local visibility I hopped around from one group to another getting little or no results.
I was frustrated, attending any of those meetings was no longer fun and exciting, and each time I collected a few more 'useless' business cards I was becoming more discouraged and jaded. I knew I needed to do something differently but I didnít know how.
With time I discovered that I could learn how to be better at networking Ė and so can you. As a matter of fact, by practicing a few of the following tips you can turn your face to face promotional efforts into a powerful business building tool.
Marketing Mentorís Five Habits of Highly Effective Networkers
I often joke that every new business owner should be jailed for 30 days Ė so that they have time to think and develop a business strategy. You must take time to plan your networking activities or youíll quickly find yourself overwhelmed and frustrated. Here are at least three things you need to address ahead of time:
Know what you are looking for. Itís like going fishing; you must know what fish you want to catch before you choose a fishing spot. Conversely, you must know who your ideal prospects, how to recognize them and what is the best 'bait' to attract them.
Develop a magnetic ABC (Audio Business Card). It blows me away that smart business people spend days and weeks designing their printed business cards, but when asked what they do they quickly degenerate into a blubbering, brainless baboon!
Donít bother going anywhere until you develop an attention getting Audio Business Card that clearly communicates who you work with, the problems you solve and the benefits of working with you.
Find the right group (for you). Even the best marketing message wonít matter one bit if you are hanging out with a wrong crowd. Identify groups that are most likely to attract either your ideal clients or those who already have access to your ideal clients.
If youíve networked once or twice before you inevitably had the displeasure of running into that self-centered, never-stops-yapping-about-themselves bore! What we donít realize is that we often are THAT BORE!
Hey, I canít blame you for being excited about your business. But frankly, what you do is boring to others. So stop trying to be interesting and become more INTERESTED. Talk less and listen a lot more!
Dr. Stephen Covey said it best: "Seek to understand before you seek to be understood". Frankly people never do business with you just because they understand what you do. They do business with you because they FEEL UNDERSTOOD!
Learn to engage people in conversations that will leave them energized and excited.
Ask provoking questions that cause the other person to shift how they think/look at life or business.
Share a success tip that worked for you or a little known resource that will save them time/money.
Make a connection and open the door...Facilitate an introduction to someone who you think can become a valuable contact or a potential client.
Most people are tired of exchanging trivialities and welcome this fresh approach. Amazingly, such attitude of 'being of service' will set you apart from others and land you more new business than even the best sales pitch you could ever develop.
Asking a few questions about your business doesnít make someone a prospect or a buyer! Pushy, self-centered requests for business and referrals expressed too early in the conversation come across as rude. No one likes to be sold so people will run away from you.
Instead, make it your goal to meet and connect with other like-minded individuals who you like as a person and focus on developing long-tem business relationships with them.
In the five years of running my coaching and consulting business, I can remember fewer than ten people who promised to connect with me after I met them and actually did. Sadly, majority of professionals get so busy collecting new business cards they forget to stay in touch with people they already met.
Develop follow-up tools Ė reports, articles, audio CDs Ė that describe your product or service in an engaging, informative way. Start publishing an ezine or a one-page, printed monthly newsletter.
Whatever you do you must find a way to systematically follow-up to maximize your networking ROI (return on investment).
Do you like these suggestions? Want to learn more strategies and how-to tips to improve your networking skills? My new marketing pal, Lois Carter Fay, invited me to teach a high-impact teleclass on this subject. Together weíll share with you how to turn chicken dinners into new clients and an endless stream of referrals. Find out moreÖ
© 2004 Adam M. Urbanski
The Author, Adam Urbanski, a Marketing Mentor, helps Service Professionals and Small Business Owners attract more clients. For more free tutorial articles, hot how-to tips and a FREE 32-page marketing guide go to www.themarketingmentors.com/
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