Turbo-Charge Your Networking Efforts
Last week’s blog dealt with the importance of in-person networking to grow your business. The primary author of the content, Eric Byrd with Pitch for Success, gave a fantastic overview of effective networking and why so many of us get frustrated with it at some point. Like other disconnects in life, ineffective networking is the result of unrealistic expectations. That’s not to say we shouldn’t expect when we meet other professionals, exchange information, and make connections it will ultimately result in higher revenue. The part of networking that most of us do poorly is failing to recognize where we are on the relationship continuum. We treat people we’ve just met as though we have instantly made our way from contact, to connection, and are already in a relationship by following up with requests to do business after one brief encounter. When we ignore the most important part of the networking transaction – making a real connection that starts the process of building a relationship, we lose the intention that positive business relationships are a mutual two way street.
What’s Your Networking Goal?
It is no mystery that the same step people struggle to master when networking in-person is consistent with the disconnect we see with so many businesses using social media. It is not uncommon for us to hear business owners expressing concern that social media “doesn’t work”. This is a clear indication of a need to clarify the definition of “works”. Just as with in-person networking, the first step when embarking on a networking path is to identify a clear goal. The strategy and expectations for various goals are different. For example, if your main goal in launching a social media campaign is to increase revenue by 25%, unless you have a well-established and significant digital presence already, you are going to need to put resources in the form of advertising and a highly targeted professional digital marketing campaign to come close to that goal. If however, you do not intend to put a lot of financial and human resources to a goal associated with direct business growth, you may be motivated to establish brand awareness, set your place among your competitors, or best yet – enhance your in-person networking through the use of digital platforms. How you approach your platforms will be very different with these two examples of relationship marketing.
Taking Your Personal Contacts to the Next Level
Once your digital marketing goal is set, your strategy on in-person networking can be amplified by the effective use of social media. We learned last week that we need to establish a connection and build a relationship with our contacts before we follow up to get their business and referrals. Social media is an excellent way to build on what you started when you met someone at a networking event. Here are some suggestions to go from Contact to Connection to Relationship:
1. Be Discerning – There is no point in wasting your time and energy trying to build a relationship with someone when there is no connection. If you meet someone and you have no interest in their business, no particular desire to connect them with your network, no personal or business alliance, be polite but leave the contact at the event. It is not only ok, it is an efficient business practice to reserve your resources for the people and business that present the best opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship.
2. Connect on Linkedin – After meeting professionals, if a good connection was established (or if you believe you made a good connection but further contact will determine if that is true), search for the individual on Linkedin. This is the best place to establish a digital person to person professional relationship. Request a connection, but don’t use the default text, replace it with a sentence or two about where you met and why you would like to add them to your network .
3. Leverage the Power of Linkedin – This is a powerful tool to work your network, stay in touch, establish connections from the contacts you’ve made, reinforce your connections, and add value to your business relationships. Use the your Home page to like, comment, and share on posts from people in your network. Get involved in some groups and interact there.
4. Check out the Company’s Digital Space – You will learn a lot about your new contact by looking at their website, finding them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+. It may be tempting to look for gaps, problems, or hooks to approach them with how your company can help. If you know how to look, you will undoubtedly see those things, but do not follow up with a sales message about why they need your services. Rather, connect with their pages, like and comment appropriately on their posts, and share something your audience would value. If they are paying attention to their social media, your reinforcing the connection will not go unnoticed. As long as it is genuine and appropriate for your audience, continue connecting in this manner.
5. Circle Back In-Person – Once you connect on the company’s digital platforms, take opportunity to relay something that stood out about the company’s presence when you see the person you are “courting”. For example, if a company is participating in a fundraiser, hired a new employee, reached an important milestone, or posted about a change in their industry, if you mention it as a point of conversation when you see them, you are taking an interest, building connection, paying attention to them. Who doesn’t like that? You have access to information about their business that, when used properly, puts you at an advantage over others who aren’t leveraging digital marketing.
6. Hire a Professional – Yes, this is self-serving, but true nonetheless. Most business professionals do not know how to get the most from these platforms and hiring someone to help is as smart a business decision as hiring any other professional to help your business. There are many excellent resources available. Our recommendation for learning the ins and outs of Linkedin is Yuhannes Watts with Learn2Link.
7. Be a giver – Share information and posts from your network, connect people with each other and opportunities you hear about. “Givers Gain” doesn’t just apply to networking groups, it is a spiritual axiom appropriate for any inter-relational forum. Remember, if you want people to pay attention to your stuff, you have to model the behavior you want from others.
8. Know when to back off – Social media has a negative association of allowing people to be a bit stalker-ish at times. If you are reaching out and there is no response or reciprocation, that may be a function of the company/individual’s lack of involvement on these platforms, OR it may be a indication that their is no real connection with you from their point of view. Social media can help you build a relationship, but if you do not have a real connection, attempts to follow up will likely be futile. Whatever the reason, if you are getting nowhere with someone, call it quits. If they are interested in pursuing a business relationship with you, that will likely be revealed through other means.
Most smaller businesses rely of some form of person to person contact to grow their business. Integrating a strategy of in-person and digital forums is an excellent way to grow your network, build a referral and client base, find strategic partners, and resources you need to develop a successful enterprise. For more information on how we can help, Contact Us for a complementary consultation.