9 Networking Tips for Business
As a marketer, telling the unbiased truth is what we’re paid to do. It’s a top reason I became a business magazine publisher. Marketing and magazine publishing is a fitting union of degree with the audience. However, knowing all the pieces of marketing comes with the price of seeing the pains of a business before its owners, and in some cases instead of its owner. That foresight brings a hot topic forward.
A trending concern among business owners is networking. Questions about networking plague cluster groups, panel discussions, and letters to the editor. Which groups are the best groups is a top question. Although many owners want a one-size-fits-all list, the answer is found within the business owner. As a marketer, here are some pieces used when recommending where to go.
Know the goal: It’s the first vital piece when selecting networking groups. Whether to find friends, like-minded people, places to push the product, business to purchase from, or to target a certain group, answering this question will lay the plan of purpose and provide a window of how many groups to target.
Engage: The second critical piece. A sure way to commit business suicide is to attend and avoid engagement. It sounds laughable, but it happens frequently. Said another way, once you know why to attend, then attend and do the job. Reach out, ask questions, form relationships, and avoid cliques.
Type of group: The third piece of success in networking. Based on the goal, the meeting should have the audience to fit the aim. If the desire is to find a mastermind group to bare your business soul, then small, quality, and confidential is the group to look for. If motivation is what is sought, then maybe a weekly meeting with energy fits. If passing out a 100 business cards is the goal, look for quantity and free-form networking as a fit. If techie buffs or women is the intent, then target the tech clubs or the local women’s group.
Plan to go the distance: Trying on a networking meeting comes first, but avoid being a one-night stand. Attend a time or two then dig in. Become part of the group. Lend insight, time, invest in the relationships, and don’t avoid a conversation of investing in you if you serve their need.
Time: What time of the day or evening, and will you make it work with your schedule? It’s easy to omit groups because it’s not convenient, but consider if and how it meets the goals. If the 9pm meeting (and I’ve attended one) hits your goal spot on, don’t consider it, but move the mountain if necessary. Take a power-nap and go with vigor.
Serve the need: The chosen groups speak to the purpose you’re there and mirror your objectives. For example, if the goal is social interaction, there should be time for mingling or interacting. If the goal is to get information for business development, there will be a business topic. Motivation goals will bring guest speakers or topics to drive action. If finding buyers is the aim, then look for groups with the target audience and money purchase your work.
Cost: If you are spending hundreds to be a member of a group, make sure you will receive enough business to break even. If not, then you are paying for a social group and should love the people in it. One company paid nearly 400 dollars, gave nearly 150 hours in service outside the monthly meetings, served on committees, and paid for every event and giveaway they participated in. They were engaged but never made more than 100 dollars in a year from that group. This is an expensive lesson if the pattern isn’t changed. Spend money where you can make money.
Special needs: This is the delicate topic that must be spoken out loud. There are some groups that are distant when you walk in, slow to extend their welcome, only befriend to get money, or are friendly when playing to certain cliques in the group. These are poison for several reasons. They lack authenticity and ultimately hurt their reputation and yours. These attitudes are overlooked in bull times, but in bearish downturns you will be used for the groups own purposes.
Forgiving: Attending a networking group is a relationship decision, which requires a willingness on both sides to overlook a couple flaws. One business wanted to develop quality business leads. They quit a perfect networking group because they, “…didn’t serve food at the beginning.”