So You Belong To a Networking Group. Now What?

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Getting the Most Out of Your Networking Organization
 

So you've decided to join a networking community/group! Congratulations! It’s a great first step to marketing the greatest product you have to offer, “YOU”!

I am a firm believer that your "involvement”, or lack thereof, in the networking community/group you join, is THE key to your success or demise in business.  On occasion I hear, ‘I haven’t received any business through XYZ networking group.’ The first thing I ask is, “How involved are you?”

Most people still practice the dinosaur-approach to networking -   bring your business cards and leave your personal life at home. Wayyyyy back in the day, I used to bring 50 business cards to an event, and if I passed out 30 I thought I had a successful networking experience.

I would proceed with my business card first, assuming they wanted my card, a handshake, got their card in return and went on to the next person. Rarely did I get a call the next day and even worse, rarely did I follow up with anyone whose card I received. No matter how many times I heard and learned about follow-up techniques and what to do with the cards I had acquired, it rarely lead me to new business. The fact is, I never made an authentic connection with the person, aside from their company name and title. My approach was wrong! My problem?  I left my personality and my natural instinct to want to know the person with whom I might be interested in doing business, at home. You’ve heard of “Speed Networking” right? It takes networking to a whole new level of WRONG! Why? There is no relationship building in the experience.

Some networking organizations give members the opportunity to be listed in their business directory. It’s considered a “value point” for your membership. But it isn’t “valuable” unless you’re connecting outside of the directory and if the networking organization isn’t actively marketing its directory to consumers. If you’re relying on the directory alone, you’re not using your membership to your full potential. Business directories should give you an opportunity to include certain things in your profile that lend to your credibility and expertise, like, testimonials, business ratings, links to your website, contributions and  articles you have published on the networking organization’s website, etc. As well, the directory should be available to all consumers, whether they are a member or not. This is what it is to actively market members.

When networking, you should be able to tell the person(s) with whom you are meeting, ‘check out my profile at ……..com”. This approach gives you the opportunity to market the networking group with which you are involved. If there is no time to "market" your business, they can learn more from your profile.

If you’re not into attending networking events, hopefully your networking organization’s business directory offers you the opportunity to have an extensive profile, giving you a better chance to connect with consumers.

Connections cascade into referrals. Don't get down on the networking group if you're not getting business directly from members. While you may not acquire a new client during a networking event, you may connect with someone who can refer you to a friend, colleague or family member. People you meet at networking events will often lead you to new clients. It may take a moment, but business will come eventually. 

Sometimes networking events are a necessity. The more obscure your profession, the more you have to connect outside of the business directory. You should be actively involved in the networking community by attending networking events, hosting a networking event at your location, speaking during an event, offering coupons or raffle items to be given away at events.

Here are five tips to follow when attending your next networking event. I hope they help you make authentic connections that lead to friendships and business.
 
1. Keep your business cards in your wallet, pocket or purse, unless someone asks for it.
 
When you approach someone, ask them what they do outside of networking. A good question to ask: "What do you do when you're not working or networking?" This is your chance to authentically “connect” with someone you know little about.
 
2. Only ask for someone’s card if you are genuinely interested in them and not just building your business card portfolio or call list.
 
3. When talking with someone, look the person in their eyes and focus on them, not everyone else in the room. I can’t tell you how annoying it is when I’m talking with someone and the only thing I notice are their eyes scouring the room for their next client. The person you are talking with should be your main priority.
 
4. If you collected any business cards, hopefully because you had “meaningful” connections, go home and connect with them on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. In your Facebook request, write a simple note like, “Great meeting you tonight at ___________. I'd like to connect with you here.”
 
Speaking of Facebook, you should NEVER request a connection/friendship without a simple greeting. I rarely accept anyone’s friend request who doesn’t let me know why they want to connect with me. A simple note might be, “I see we have a lot of wonderful friends in common. I’d like to connect.”
 
5. Be active! Belonging to a networking community can be as easy as writing a check. It can also be a lot of fun if you get involved! To get what you deserve out of a networking community you need to be active and involved in the networking process, person to person. Business WILL follow.
 
When Dames bond, Dames thrive!
 

Mary B. Relotto

Dames Bond LLC

Founder, CEO, and Central Ohio Chapter Director

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