Posts Tagged ‘Networking Help’

Lately I have had the opportunity to do some more focused networking. and have already noticed the difference. Attending a networking event where everyone in the room is a potential client offers significantly more potential for striking up a valuable conversation.

As noted by Chris Brogan in his recent post Get More Out of Conferences and Networking Events, at any event the questions of “…which of these are people you should connect with? Who here is a client? Who’s a future partner? Where are your new friends that you’ll keep in touch with in coming years?” make it hard to jump in.  Choosing your event carefully can make it so much easier.

At a broad networking event, say a Chamber, local business group or  a vertical organization (like gender, nationality or religion based) you will meet a wide variety of people. These are excellent venues to meet potential clients, referrers, partners, suppliers, and lunch partners. Over time and with a commitment to the group, relationships build that allows this to happen. Open groups are also excellent for practicing networking skills.

Targeted networking is about fishing where the highest concentrations of fish are. If you sell products or services to real estate agents, there may be a few at general networking events, but at the association of realtors meeting the room will be full of prospects. You probably can’t pick a bad seat. If you don’t meet the perfect prospect, you are still likely to learn something raises the value proposition of the event.

To find events right for you look at your target audiences. Even if you can work with anyone, defining a few core areas will improve your positioning and marketing effectiveness. Having a focus makes it easier to make decisions and respond to inquiries and more likely that you will be seen as a resource rather than a vendor when attending industry events. As an example, look at Gail Bower. Gail is a consultant who works with nonprofits handling many issues including marketing and event strategy. Within this area Gail has a special niche – she is a sponsorship expert. Where is Gail networking? Not at generic marketing or event planning groups, but at much more narrow events like a meeting of fundraising professionals or a group for festival planners. When she mentions she has solutions to sponsorship problems, I bet heads turn.

In the right room, Gail is a rock star. Where is your room? What do you know that a specific audience will think is gold?  Chances are there’s a group, meeting, conference or association where you can turn heads too. How do you find that room? Ask your current clients what associations or professional societies they belong to, research online and look for conferences where the speakers are talking about your niche. Go as an attendee the first time to make sure you are in the right place then move on to speaking, serving on a committee, providing a financial or in-kind donations and/or becoming a trade show vendor. Contributing your time and expertise to the right audience is an excellent way to build relationships that lead to speaking invitations, referrals and client engagements.


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My niece started college this year at a large state university. Due to scheduling, she wasn’t able to join the club sport she participated in all through high school. It wasn’t long before she realized that she was having trouble finding a group among the masses and needed to find a way to scale down her experience. As a child she was a swimmer, so she joined the swimming club and has now found a group she can call her own. The huge crowd has been brought down to relationship scale.

When joining a new organization the size can often be overwhelming. Joining – or creating – a small group-within-a-group Is a great stepping stone to one-on-one relationships. Some trends to try:

  • Find a club — Affinity clubs help people bond over similar interests. Sharing a favorite activity with a small group is a great way to build contacts and friendships. If your favorite activity isn’t available, start your own.
  • Take it online – Online communities are great for addressing special interests. Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr all have privacy settings that allow only members to see content. Connecting with members online often allows people to stay in touch and learn more about each other faster.
  • Bring it offline – Like everywhere else, in online communities people are seeking personal connection. Twitter users are connecting in person with local events called “tweetups”. Search www.search.twitter.com for events in your area. The NHL team the Washington Capitals created a LinkedIn group for fans and then invited them to a game. Read “A Different Look at Networking” to learn more. If you have joined a group and are only participating virtually, attend an in-person meet-up or plan one yourself.
  • Get social – Choose a few people you know a little and host a micro-event. Bringing together people you know who don’t know each other is a great way to get to know everyone better. For some great ideas, read 7 Ideas for Small Group Networking.

Sometimes the hardest part is getting to know the first few people. If you meet one person, ask him or her whom else you should know. Get a few of those people together to discuss a topic of common interest, industry trends, or just to meet others and you have a manageable event that is less stressful than a room full of people and more comfortable for some than a one-on-one lunch or meeting.

For people looking to make friends or build business relationships, a small group invitation can help avoid uncomfortable situations, confusion with dating, or worry about having enough to say. Next time you’d like to get to know someone better, invite a few others and see what happens.

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So, how were your holidays? Go to any good parties? Meet any new people? Learn something new about anyone?

Like everyone else, I attended numerous holiday events of all kinds, business, staff, family, friends, family again, parents of my kids’ friends…you get it. With the density of festivities during the holidays we get lots of opportunities to practice networking tactics – from upfront to subtle.

Sometimes I am aware that I am networking, sometimes I attend with a plan, and other times a comment a guest makes at a purely social function makes that little click happen in my head that throws me into networker mode when I wasn’t even thinking that way. This can be great – the ability to socialize casually and still keep my ears open for threads of business interest is a valuable skill. Or it can get me into trouble. I have had to squash the urge when it’s really not appropriate – like talking to my husband’s new boss at his awards dinner. Repeat the mantra: not about me not about me. It helps.

This year I experimented with doing the opposite of what I often do. At a New Year’s Day brunch hosted by my sons’ coach I was chatting with one of the hostess’ work colleagues and she mentioned something she does for her clients. The alert in my head instantly jumped to “so, what kind of clients do you have?” but I decided not go there. Instead we started talking about jewelry and I think I learned a lot more about who she is than if I drilled in on her job right away. I can always ask the host what someone does, but I might have learned something the host doesn’t know by avoiding talking about work.

It was a fun and interesting month. As we move into a new year, think about what new things you can try to make great connections.

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An interesting thing about business networking, it that if you do it enough you are bound to start running into people you have already met. For some people, this can be a gift to have someone you recognize and feel comfortable approaching, for others it’s frustrating to meet the same people over and over.

Either way of thinking, make the most of the event by taking that relationship to the next level. Jan Kopple had a great suggestion “I find out one new thing about someone I already know”. It is so easy to see someone familiar and chat about the information you already know, or to avoid them in hopes of meeting fresh leads, but it is not really helpful.

I can’t count how many times I have known someone for quite a while before we discovered how we could help each other. To speed up the process, don’t stop at asking for referrals. Take a look at this great list from Hazel Walker of the Networking Strategist Blog:

  1. You could put an article about my services in your newsletter, I will do the same for you.
  2. You could invite me to a networking opportunity that you may be going to.
  3. You could nominate me for an award it would build my credibility
  4. You could attend an event with me; it would create visibility for both of us.
  5. You could display my information or products in your office or store.
  6. You could mention me in your blog.
  7. You could read my blog and comment, and then link to my blog.
  8. You could introduce me to your network
  9. You could write an article for my newsletter
  10. You could invite your best client to our chapter so I could meet them.
  11. You could WRITE me a great testimonial that I could used in my materials.
  12. You could put my brochure or information in your client mailings.

Having some ideas about what you could ask to learn more and get more out of networking makes it much easier to respond. Not everyone will be comfortable recommending a prospect right away, but most people are happy to help in smaller ways to get to know you better.

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To kick this blog off, I posted a question on LinkedIn “Is networking easy or your biggest nightmare?” and got some great response. Many respondents love networking and had some great tips to offer, which I will include in future posts.

For today, I am going to focus on the reluctance to self-promote. Nicole Rivera, Product Marketing Manager at Devon Intl Group said “I don’t mind networking and meeting new people. When it comes to the point in the conversation where I’m supposed to ‘sell’ my company – so to speak – that’s where I freeze. I enjoy talking to people, the idle chit-chat, but when it comes to the real reason we’re here, that’s what I find hard. I don’t like the ulterior motive portion of it.”

I think many people feel the way Nicole does. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about themselves or that it is inappropriate or bragging. It can be, if handled badly, however for those of use whose job it is to generate business, every occasion is an opportunity, so we need to find a balance. Weddings, parties, neighborhood gatherings – events of a purely social nature – are especially delicate, but no less an opportunity. I have gotten clients out of all those occasions.

For many people “so, what do you do?” is an easy opening conversational question, even at a party. I recommend having a social version of your 30-second intro. Don’t waste the opportunity with a non-answer like “I’m in marketing.” Think of a  5 or 10 word version of what you do that will allow for a probing question if someone is intrigued – and leave room for an “oh that’s nice” from everyone else. I have a friend who is a PhD and works in robotics. I asked him if he could do it and he said “I make computers less dumb.” Brilliant. What would you say about what you do in 5 or 10 words?

When it comes to official business networking events like a chamber of commerce social, business breakfasts, awards dinners, business card exchanges it is another thing. If you are uncomfortable bringing up business in a situation designed for meeting new prospects, that’s a whole other issue. Absolutely there are people that hand out cards like candy and ask for coffee meetings only to probe your contact list. You don’t want to be aggressive, however learning someone’s kid plays little league and not why they came isn’t the best use of the money you just spent for breakfast. Try transitioning with “what do you like best about this group?” or “how have you grown your business” to find out about the kind of referrals that might be good – chances are they’ll ask the same question back to you.

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