Did you know that networking alone could result in a staggering 80-90% of new customers for your business? These new leads could come from various sources such as word-of-mouth recommendations, referrals, and direct networking. If you are tight on a marketing budget and most of your business comes from people, then you need to come up with a networking strategy to help grow your business. If done correctly, networking can bring in the majority of new business and at a comparatively low cost compared to other promotional strategies. Not to mention, you can also make some long-lasting friendships along the way.
Create The Perfect Networking Action Plan
#1 Are You Prepared To Venture Into Networking?
Although this may sound like a strange question at first, how can you expect to make connections if you are not properly prepped? You have probably heard that “Practice makes perfect,” or better yet, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Well, it abides the game of networking and nailing a successful networking strategy.
- What’s your elevator pitch?
- How do you project yourself or your business?
- Are you being genuine or a bit too “salesy”?
- How is your body language – eye contact, handshake, etc.?
These may sound a bit basic, but it’s important how you project yourself and if you’ll make it to actually connecting with that referral, lead or introducer. Having the right attitude and learning to pitch your business in 30 seconds or less will surely help you to look like a professional networker. It’s usually obvious when an individual is trying too hard to land a sale or pitching a business in a way that appears over-the-top. So test it among your friends, family, partners or people close to you to make sure your pitch sounds solid.
#2 What’s your networking goal?
To be an effective networker or create a surefire networking strategy, you have first to be clear about why you want to network.
- Are you looking to find new leads or contacts?
- Are you trying to strengthen existing relationships?
- Are you on the hunt for a mentor, partnership or sponsor?
- Are you looking to find a career in another industry?
- Are you networking with potential people to join your team?
- Are you searching to get insights on the market that interest you?
No matter what the case may be, you should have a goal and a purpose. Once you’ve established why you want to network, set connection goals. Improve your networking skills by clearly defining what you’d like to achieve (be realistic!). Before going to the event, jot down how many connections you would like to make so you’re not roaming around the room not speaking to anyone.
#3 How much time should you spend networking?
Our time is precious, and we should be exerting our energy in the right places. Whether they are attending conferences, cocktail events, parties, or online groups – you need to be strategic in the amount of time you dedicate to achieving your networking goal. If you already know what you want to gain, then efficiency is the next step.
When creating your networking strategy, you need to understand how much of your time should be spent on trying to find new contacts or growing your existing contact database. And how immediate is each one of your networking goals.
Here’s a great chart from Marketing Donut on how to distinguish urgency in networking:
So putting everything all together, you have prepped yourself, you know why you are networking, you know how you are going to manage your time, but is it in the right place? Or even the right people?
Research the conferences and events that interest you. Learn about the participants attending and the speakers that you may wish to connect with. And most importantly, ensure there are going to be people at the event that would be to your interest. Again, knowing why you want to network is the key here.
Taking the Creative Women Conference, for example, the attendees will be businesswomen and female entrepreneurs from all over the world. The entire conference focuses on helping women connect with other women that would not be possible in normal circumstances – except over the web. Networking is promoted throughout the whole weekend via dinners and lunches to meet other participants and keynote speakers. Therefore, women interested in learning from other successful females, as well as building business relationships, are who would be interested in attending.
Networking is an investment and leads to meeting some amazing people out there. Not only could you gain potential business leads, but you could also make life-longs friends and connections.
#4 Get set. Go network.
Although networking involves a strategy, it’s about connecting with people. When meeting new faces you want to build relationships and share information. Networking with existing connections means nurturing the relationship and exchanging resources. You don’t want to go to any conference or event and just go about “collecting” people – create quality contacts and relationships. Then follow-up with them to see how they’re doing or send a “Happy Birthday.”
It’s worth mentioning that communicating with anyone you meet is valuable. Being attentive and listening are essential if you want to up your networking strategy. You never know who knows who or what connections could come about just by being friendly and open to fellow networkers.