To grow your business, land a job, learn something, socialize, solve a problem, help someone… Whatever your focus, there are four business networking strategies that can help you achieve more, do it better, and do it faster!
Fine Tune Your Target Market
A target market is who you serve best and therefore wish to serve the most. Or, where you do your best work. Or, want to do your best work. Remember, having a target market doesn’t mean you necessarily have to turn away business if it isn’t in your wheelhouse. It just means that you have a marketing focus helping you determine the best places to go, the best things to say, and the best people to meet. (I think they call that networking!) If you’re thinking your target market is the affluent marketplace, great. What does that look like? If you’re focused on small businesses, what type? Families? Corporate managers? Executives? Individuals? Anyone, everyone, someone? Whatever your target, be specific. What industry, profession, market segment, niche, dynamic, demographic, and geography are you looking to target? And if you don’t have a target market, consider establishing one – today. It will only make your networking easier every time!
Make Your Lists
And check them twice! I’m very much into lists. To Do Lists, Follow Up Lists, Hit Lists, Hot Lists, Prospect Lists, Client Lists, The Book of Lists, Shopping Lists. It’s all good. Here are two of my favorites – A Questions List and a Names List. Both can be written (as in handwritten) on an index card. The Questions List is an actual list of questions that would be helpful if asked of those you meet at a networking event, trade show, product show, conference, convention, or wherever. Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be holding the index card and reading the questions out loud as you talk to people (because that might be weird) but being able to review and practice your questions while at the event could be helpful. Think about how much more confident you will feel meeting new people if you had specific things to ask them and ultimately share with them. The other list, the Names List, could be written on another index card. This card contains all the people that you need to meet or reconnect with at an event. As you’re meeting people and getting to know them, you might share your Names List with them to see if they might know any of them and potentially introduce you. Kind of a LinkedIn Live scenario! Of course, offer to do the same for them. Remember, you’re in this thing together.
I’m just off the phone with a financial advisor that I’m coaching. He returned from a trade show that’s in his target market. He returned from the event with a stack of business cards in a snarl of rubber bands and he wasn’t really sure what to do with them. None of the names on the cards represent true prospects but do represent an opportunity to develop some key relationships with potential referral sources. He emailed each of them asking to “keep him in mind” if anyone needs his services. The truth is nobody will “keep him in mind”. When you’re still face-to-face at an event and you’re speaking to a key contact, if there is a good reason to follow up, make that offer right then and there! And make it benefit each of you. “Does it make sense to reconnect over the next couple of days and continue to compare notes? Perhaps there are opportunities to be resources for one another. I’m happy to call you on Monday if you’re available. Let me know what works best for you!” Now your follow up call (or email) can help coordinate your offer. Always try to establish an offer, next step, or call to action when there is a good reason to do so. If not, don’t!
Create Ongoing Events
Having a recurring event to invite people to is awesome. It could be monthly, quarterly, or whatever. But it must be a benefit to all attendees – not just you (at least if it’s ongoing and on your calendar regularly). Maybe the gig is a networking event, industry roundtable, training seminar, or retreat. It doesn’t have to be expensive or involve a lot of people. But it does have to involve the right people. Did I mention it has to benefit all attendees? Think about it. If you created an event attractive to your target market (you have a target market, right?) that you made available every other month, you would always have a reason to speak with prospects, clients, and referral sources while always having something to invite them to. The event (or meeting) could take place in someone’s conference room or at a Starbuck’s but I would suggest that a business setting will set a more professional tone. Of course, the event could be in a formal meeting room at a hotel if you have something bigger in mind. More events lead to more follow up which lead to more opportunities.
Feel free to add some of these “knock out” approaches to your marketing plan.