The Art of Networking
Written by Lesley Anderson
The sun is (finally) putting in an appearance, restrictions are lifting and people are starting to attend events from festivals to parties to networking. The world seems to divide between those that LOVE networking and rely on it for lead generation while others actively loathe it. Obviously, for the last 18 months, networking face to face has been on hold – which has given way to a plethora of online networking events. For lots of people, online networking has been surprisingly successful and I know of quite a few people working with new clients from online networking – and have still not met in person! My prediction is that online events will continue for some time, alongside networking in person.
It’s worth considering networking as part of your marketing mix, simply because it’s a highly effective way to raise your brand awareness, win more work and grow your network of suppliers and potential partners for collaboration. Networking is not just for those in professional services or consultancy!
Whether you love or loathe networking, there are some simple things you can do that will help you get more out of the events.
Networking is simply meeting people
If you think networking must result in handfuls of business cards to add to your database or get you direct sales within days, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself and that will affect the way you behave at the event. Your only objective is to meet people and start building relationships.
People hate being sold to, but they love working with, and supporting, people they like and trust. So, when you start networking, that’s all you are doing. Focus on getting to know people, show interest in their business and their lives, and the rest will follow.
The power of a network is its reach
One of my most active networks has restaurants, hotels and venues in it- all of whom do very well from the network as the members are constantly recommending those places to people outside the network.
Once you are part of a strong network, you’ll get referrals to people inside and outside that network. If you can contribute to those referrals, that gets noticed and will reap dividends in the long term.
Show up and show up early
The best way to get more of a network is to show up! Whether it’s online, face to face or part of a WhatsApp chat, take part regularly. If you’re going to an ‘in person’ event, turn up early so that you don’t have to walk into a room full of strangers. The early arrivals tend to talk to each other and you’ll integrate into the event more easily.
LinkedIn is an online network
LinkedIn is the networker’s friend. You can connect with people you’ve just met at an event and continue building that all important relationship. Whatever your business, it’s worth investing time on your personal profile and a company page on LinkedIn. Posting two or three times a week is ideal, but appearing on the platform every day to comment and engage with people on there is an excellent way to raise your profile and get you noticed. Invest 15 – 20 minutes a day to see the best results. My posts usually get 1000 – 6000 views, multiple comments and now and then, a really good lead. Your aim on LinkedIn is to be visible but also to show your human side, so don’t be afraid to treat it as a social platform as well as a business one.
Keep a record
Track where your enquiries are coming from and what your conversion rate is. I know that only 10% of my work comes through cold enquiries from my website and the vast majority of work comes from recommendations from my network and from LinkedIn.
People like to work with people they know, like and trust so however you want to achieve that, have some fun with it and enjoy making new friends.