I get a lot of value from my Networking, both on and offline. I constantly get asked by people where I find the time to give so much to Networking. Of course, the people who ask that, are not getting a valuable return from the time they spend!
How to get value from networking
Both online and offline there are an every growing multitude of places to network. Don’t try to engage with all of them. Much like targeting your market, you have to target your Networking. You need to focus your efforts where you can get results. Don’t attend an event just because it’s on, consider what value it will offer you. Consider what you can achieve from attending. Don’t limit this to just potential customers. I work in collaboration with many companies in my own market, most of whom I met at Networking events. Instead of being competitors, we now work together on projects. If you go to Networking events knowing what you want out of it, you are much more likely to achieve just that! I focus my online marketing to two groups that work for my industry, and two live groups that suit my geographic catchment area. That focus maximises the return I get for the time I invest in Networking.
Quality not Quantity
Similar to above, but this comes down to the individuals involved. The Pareto Principle (80:20 Rule) applies to Networking, as it does everything else. After some time, you will find (if you actively measure it) that 80% of the business you get through networking will come from 20% of the people you meet. You need to identify these people and maximise that relationship. At a recent meeting of a client of mine, Bradan Consulting, they had kept records of all referrals they had received for the last five years. Approximately 80% had come from three people.
Give to Receive
The biggest mistake I think that people make when Networking is constantly pushing their own business and not listening to what other people are looking for. If you approach Networking in this manner, you will quickly find you have very few people to talk to/replying to your posts. Paying attention to what people are telling you about their business and genuinely trying to help them will reap rewards for you. It might seem slow at the start, but it will pay off in the medium to long term.
To conclude, Networking should be a planned element of your marketing, not just randomly attending events if and when they suit you or sporadically posting on a range of online networking forums.