You’ve attended a networking event… Now what?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard small business owners tell me that attending a networking event just doesn’t work for them. They tell me, “People there are too clique-ish, they won’t talk to me”, “They just give me a sales pitch”, or my favorite “I got 30 business cards but no leads contacted me back!”.
Now, I’ve been networking for 10 years in three different states with three very different demographics. And if I can use a networking event as my main lead source for my business in a rural town in Northern Arizona, the tight knit Midwestern college town of Ann Arbor and now in the Bay Area of Northern California – then you can use it where you are too. So, here’s the thing maybe it’s not the network event… maybe it’s how you are networking.
Here are some indicators that it might be your approach:
- Are you looking for a collaboration or a commission? People can tell, you know.
- Do you mindlessly collect business cards like you’re in a race or are you focused on making a connection with just a few attendees? Attendees are watching you run around like a chicken with your head cut off.
- Did you feel energized or exhausted after the event? I think networking is one my favorite parts of owning a small business and you should too.
Personally, if I have a good connection with someone at a networking event, then I’ll plant the seeds of meeting up for coffee at some point in the near future. Within the email or text that I send within 24 hours, I suggest a few specific days and times – no vague “let’s get together soon” nonsense. I tell them (because it’s true) that I want to find out more about who they are, what they do and how I can help. It sounds simple but I have always had good results. I think networking events work best when you don’t run around offering cards to everyone along with a sales pitch. No one wants that. It makes people feel less special if they think they are just a number.
Networking events are most useful when you utilize them to start a long term connection. If you’re planning on networking, realize it takes consistency and commitment to see the best results. That means attending multiple events on a regular basis so people have a real chance to get to know you and vice versa. If I meet someone at one event and never hear from them again except to be solicited via email or otherwise they will not gain my business or my referral. And really why would you want to do business with someone that you didn’t know, like and trust? Networking is not one and done, it’s long term.
I believe that your success in networking will be determined by your mindset way before you walk through the door. It’s about giving before you gain, respecting people’s time and connecting with people not their wallets. That’s worked for me over the years and I hope it works for you too.
What do you think? Do you have any tips that have helped make your networking efforts a success? Feel free to leave it in the comment section.
Diane Labazio is the Founder and Brand Strategist for Creative Solution Consulting. She loves to help small businesses figure out their best marketing strategy whether it’s in person, in print or online. Diane loves to create whether it’s brainstorming with a business or creating chaos in the kitchen. You can connect with her on Facebook or Linkedin.