In a world of shifting business marketing metrics, discover the one thing that has become increasingly clear; business networking has become one of the most cost-effective and productive means to foster new business relationships and potential new opportunities within the context of product or services marketing today.
Here in this article I will explore the potential for inherent value discovered through networking and expert tips on best practices for optimum results.
Whether your company’s marketing focus is near or far, professional networking with those identified as clearly possessing similar business interests and objectives has become one of the most powerfully responsive approaches to acquiring new people to partner with in terms of association and/or as newfound customers or clients. Networking today is essential; it opens doors to new friendships, opportunities, expands personal knowledge and helps to establish one’s level of expertise and authority.
The enormous audience reach through the global internet community has expanded our opportunities tremendously and let’s not forget the critical importance of finding new relationships and business opportunities right in our own communities through personal networking.
Many individuals today loathe the process of direct business marketing, especially when it comes to personal appearances at local networking venues. There is a multitude of highly negative personal perspectives associated with networking that holds business professionals back from embracing the many opportunities that networking affords. Even those in executive positions with exceptional experience and achievements harbor such negative perspective; they feel awkward, nervous, anxious, stressed, and even dirty as though they are being intrusive by networking.
Often, business professionals have a very uncomfortable networking experience because of their own perceptions of the legitimacy of networking today. Maintaining positive and realistic expectations about what can be accomplished through networking and its vital role in today’s product or services marketing environment is essential to successful networking.
Networking affords us far-reaching opportunities in addition to establishing new friendships, business associations and opportunities through online professional networking through social media and professional networking websites/networks as well as personal appearances at venues tailored specifically for networking purposes.
In her July, 2016 article on social networking sites for business professionals, Amber Leigh Turner writes on the topic and shares twenty social networking sites that fit the bill for effective professional networking practices and finding new opportunities.
What it all comes down to is a concerted, self-assured, confident and friendly perspective about networking activity and just how much opportunity can be realized through effective approaches to those in the business community with common interest and objectives. Quite simply, networking meetings are a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people who have something to offer and share, taking the time to get to know them, to establish and nurture friendships and trust and to experience discovery of opportunity through comfortable conversation.
Find out what contributing writer Glenn Llopis shared on the subject in his article ‘7 Reasons Networking Can Be A Professional Development Boot Camp’ on Forbes.com .
Find out through referral and advance online research where within your own community or city you will find organized business networking events/venues. Determine ahead of attending such events which ones will be the most relevant to you in terms of what you offer and seek to gain by your personal appearances.
Look to venues where attendees will most likely share common interests and business objectives as your own. The local Chamber of Commerce is the perfect place to start for networking as their organizations hold regular weekly/bi-weekly/monthly meetings and special events including those dedicated strictly to professional business marketing. At the networking events you will find a large group of business professionals there with the very same objective; to meet new industry professionals who offer their company products or services and want to share proudly through common goals. What better, more comfortable meeting environment could there be when attendees are there specifically to network with others like yourself who seek to develop new professional relationships, associations, networking and referral channels!
Dan Klamm, Outreach & Marketing Coordinator at Syracuse University’s Career Services co-wrote ‘5 Rules for Professional Social Networking Success‘ with Alana Edmunds, an IT Project Manager and Social Strategist for Recruiting & Staffing at GE Energy.
There are often numerous local organizations for business professionals to attend with the objective of meeting new contacts including men’s and women’s organizations, local networking groups, associations to join, special interest groups and more.
The Right Expectations
Networking may sometimes bring almost immediate results but generally speaking you should anticipate that it will take time to find those who share the same mutual interests. It is a process of building a comfortable, friendly relationship, establishing mutual interests and eventual trust before any attempts should be made for gainful business relationships. Do NOT come out of the gate attempting to sell!
Dress for Success
An age-old marketing technique is to come to the occasion ‘dressed for success’. That is not to say arriving looking like a high-priced fashion statement. Arrive in comfortable yet businesslike attire rather than jeans, tie dies and cutoff shorts casuals. You are there to talk and attract business! You want to ensure that first and ongoing impressions are favorable.
Arrive fresh, alert and with forethought on those ideas you wish to share during the networking session; don’t improvise! Bring along business cards but use them sparingly; hand them out to those who, in your estimation, show genuine interest and have potential as newfound associations or customers/clients.
Arrive prepared with a brief one or two sentence introductory greeting which clearly identifies what you do or have to offer; don’t be ambiguous or evasive. Share that information in a timely manner following an introduction and handshake.
Success through Networking
Your success with networking will rely on and vary significantly depending on how effective you are with one-on-one networking. If your perception of networking activity is highly negative you will most assuredly be less effective in the process.
Overcome an Aversion to Networking
Be sure to maintain a ‘promotion’ mindset with a focus on company growth, personal advancement and key achievements to share while networking. Get excited about potential new opportunities and outcomes with genuine curiosity and an open mind about those potential outcomes of newfound connections and associations. Go into networking venues with anticipation that it will be an interesting, informative and even fun experience…and make it so!
Research individuals you want to meet; understand what they do, discover mutual areas of interest and similar business goals and objectives. Advance knowledge will build upon a sense of genuine interest.
Be Keenly Aware of What You Can Offer
Consider carefully what it is that you offer relative to how it will benefit new contacts or associations the most; new information, shared tasks, technical support, appreciation, recognition and exposure through networking referrals. Show appreciation to those who share beneficial information with you. Public expressions of gratitude can advance a professional’s reputation in the business community.
How to Connect
People appreciate those who share similar interests, business objectives and values. Make new contacts feel welcome and encourage their participation in conversations. Show leadership by offering to organize an event. Be acutely aware of your knowledge, insights and perspectives that others respond to and value.
Define Your Purpose
Determine in advance what your primary purpose is for the networking event individually as you attend. Reinforce those objectives in your own mind. Where possible, present your purpose in ways that will define how others can help support ‘your company’ and/or ‘your clients’ rather than a more personal focus like only helping ‘you’ to benefit directly.
Avoid Only Self-Promotion
Refrain from coming straight out of the gate with a sales pitch. Networking events are NOT intended for overt sales or marketing activities. Show mutual interest in others, ask genuine questions and be attentive to their responses from which you can formulate touch point areas of mutual interest you can talk about further.
Meet New People
Each time you attend the same venue again, be sure to meet new people, especially anyone you see standing alone. It’s fine to mingle initially with those you have met previously to exchange pleasantries but as opportunity affords, respectfully excuse yourself by indicating that you wish to meet someone nearby that you have not yet become acquainted.
Some individuals are quite reserved, even shy about approaching others. Put their mind at ease by making the first move to say hello and start up a friendly conversation. By the same token, don’t be shy to introduce yourself to an individual or group. Remember that they are ALL there for the very same reason; to meet new business professionals to share with and expand through potential new business opportunities or referrals.
Listen for ideal opportunities to share referrals to the benefit of those you are speaking with. This is critical to establishing credibility and genuine interest that you have in the benefit of others and not just for yourself and/or your company.
Reciprocate Through Mutual Benefit
As with the referral process, be sure to reciprocate with those you speak to by giving what you get out of conversations in return.
Exchange business cards and follow-up after the meeting i.e. the same or next day via telephone call or email expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to meet, converse and especially for any referrals or other beneficial exchange that arose from that meeting; share information of benefit to the other individual promptly i.e. articles, website URL’s, contact information and more.
Arrange to Meet Again
Where conversations go well and your new acquaintance appears to be a potential source of new business or referrals, follow-up by further contact with the individual. An invitation to meet at a public coffee house is a great way to get together again in a comfortable, non-threatening and non-pressured environment with the intent of getting to know each other better.
In conclusion, focus on the following for best results with your business networking activities:
- Overcome feeling that networking is self-centered, tacky or abhorrent. Overcome those negative feelings or perceptions about networking by always shifting your thinking to a ‘promotion’ mindset.
- Focus on how beneficial networking will be for your business through personal visibility in the business/professional community and its higher purpose.
- As a result of newfound, positive personal perspective about networking your attitude will become much more positive and you will even get excited about forging new relationships and business associations that will bear fruit for years to come!
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