Some people think networking is a natural inborn skill, others think it a learned art, personally I believe that it is the coming together of a thoughtful system where the guiding principle is to grow your business and advance your goals by helping others first.
Learning to be a giver is perhaps inborn or certainly learned from a young age, taught by teachers and parents. If you have not yet discovered how to be a giver it is never too late to learn. In my experience however, that is not the area in which most networkers fall down.
The area in which most networkers fall down is the marketing side of networking, the system. In order for your networking efforts to be successful you have to have a system. That system starts with knowing who your target audience is. Once you have your target audience you can begin to choose your networking venues. Those venues do not have to necessarily be filled with your ideal prospect, it can be a room full of people who share your ideal target audience. Remember networking is not about selling while you are in the room, it is about referrals and sharing. A room full of people who work with the same target audience as you, but who do not do what you do, can be a great source of those perfect referrals and you can be a great source for them by introducing your client base to other resources that they might need.
The next part of the system is to know what you are going to do with those business cards when you get home from the event. There are many options for storing the information on those cards, the most important of which is to have it in a retrievable format that you can use to follow-up – again that system. Once you have the cards entered in whatever method you choose, now comes the important part – what are you going to do with all of those people and their information? Are you going to e-mail, snail-mail, call, connect on LinkedIn or some other Social Media Platform, send them your newsletter -DON’T without their permission, arrange to get together for a cup of coffee or even a virtual coffee, or none of the above?
This is where most people fall down and lose out on the benefits of networking – they are so overwhelmed by the choices that they have to follow-up that they do nothing.
Instead of doing nothing and losing out on all of that potential, before you go to the next networking event, sit down and figure out a system that you are going to use. Try and keep it simple enough that you can follow through without getting overwhelmed.
You can also automate some of it by creating auto-responders of sorts within your email program – I don’t mean that you should literally enter them into whatever email program you use and start sending them your e-blasts and newsletters without receiving their permission. What I am suggesting is that you create a system for yourself where you have templates that you use – whether it is a connection request on LinkedIn, a snail-mail follow-up like I use,
or templates that you can cut and paste to send email follow-ups. Make it simple so that you can keep in touch with the people you meet networking without it requiring major thought. When it requires major thought it will not get done and then you lose out.
It is also worth creating a system that has multiple touch points. It has been said that it takes an average of 8 times before someone will even remember you exist, let alone for them to buy from you. So when you sit down to create that system, figure out how often you want to be in touch and what method you are going to use each time.
For example, my system goes something like this – I meet you at an event, I send you a note on the Post-it notes (as shown above), at a set interval I then send out a LinkedIn connection request. Next, I will follow up with either an email inviting the person to join my newsletter list (I ONLY use a double opt-in system, and I wish others would do the same). If the person is someone that I think I would be able to easily refer business to, then I make sure to arrange to get together for a cup of coffee or at least to have a phone call where we can get to learn more about each other’s business and how we can possibly work together to help each other.
When you approach those coffee meetings properly, you can discover all kinds of opportunities – two of my coffee meetings have resulted in collaborative blog posts and the development of a Continuing Professional Education Course. Both of those opportunities are likely to bring both of us involved additional exposure to a new audience and new opportunities and after all, isn’t that why you were networking in the first place?
If you are not sure how to create a follow-up system that would work for you or you want to learn more about custom printed Post-it Notes and other promotional products that you can use to follow-up contact me here for help.