Many people I meet through my seminars have some type of fear or frustration with networking, here are my top 5 thoughts on networking groups and their value to your business.
1. Understand the true nature of networking
The true nature of networking is about connecting with the people you know to make life easier for both you and your business. Put in simple terms YOU CONNECT to others; YOU CONNECT Others; YOU REFER others and YOU are referred by others.
Now, think about how YOU are in relation to the true nature of networking:
How often do you connect with others for your business?
What type of connections are they?
Are you the connector or are you being connected?
Are you referring or being referred?
When was the last time you connected two people for no gain to yourself?
When was the last time you had to call a friend, business associate for advice on sourcing information or resources?
What most business owners forget is that we all network as a natural part of how we live our lives and run our businesses. Many do not think of it as networking, in fact many don’t even make the association that what they are doing is even remotely linked to networking.
2. Think from your business not yourself
If you intend to network specifically to develop your business then you need to think from the business itself. Start by asking yourself ‘what does the business need from attending XYZ event or joining XYX group?’Will it be sales leads, education for it’s operators, market positioning and branding, or to develop contacts for resources?
Next you need to assign a process to follow through on what the business needs to do.
What are the best events for the business for you to attend?
What online groups are best for your business?
What must happen to the business details of the people you meet?
How will you develop a relationship with them?
How will you turn them into quality sales leads?
What are the consequences to the business if you do not follow up?
Will the investment in networking help the business?
Some business owners avoid attending functions or joining groups all-together because they are thinking from themselves – and allow their personal fears and frustrations with networking to stand in the way of the business needs.
3. Try before you buy
I like to try before I buy, attend networking groups or events two or even three times before I decide to join or discard the idea. Generally you will have a good feel for the group after two to three visits. Some groups have limits on the number of times you can attend before having to join, make sure you check before attending.
If you decide to join a group, become active and involved in the group and make your membership investment work for you.
4. Make it work for your personal and business needs
Networking can be very rewarding for both your business and your life. Look for networking groups that can offer grow and development for you and the business, alternatively join different groups to fulfil different needs.
5. Utilise a mix of on-line and off-line techniques
Engage in a well rounded networking strategy that includes on-line social networking, networking groups, events and maintaining contact with those you already know. Remember that the same rules apply on-line as traditional methods, what are you networking for and follow up with those that you connect with. Remember networking is about connecting not selling.
Let me know your thoughts on networking.