Don’t stop NETWORKING!

Networking is a perfect way to build trusted relationships and help your business to grow, which takes time. It should be a key component to your marketing strategy and is usually one of the most economical.

To many however, it is a dirty 10-letter word, even though the most rich and successful business people out there know the value of it.

“It doesn’t work” they say. Well, “you are probably doing it wrong.”

The key is to look for the right networking group and following some common sense guidelines.

  • Networking groups are popping up all over the place and the important thing to note is that not all are the same. Try a few and find out what works for you.
  • Leave your preconceptions and cynicism at the door. Go in with an open mind and a view to learn and meet new people.
  • You may be nervous but know that you are not alone. Most people feel exactly the same. That feeling will pass and that will be your barometer to find the right one for you.
  • It must be professional. While we all like a casual environment keep in mind that you need to look at this as an investment. Look for one that has structure.
  • Don’t start a conversation with your business card. Invest some time, first, in actually making a connection. Have a meaningful conversation with the other person, asking questions about their interests, business and life outside of work (if that feels appropriate). Once you’ve built a rapport, ask for the other person’s business card and offer yours.
  • Remember that patience is a virtue. Networking is developing strong, long-standing business relationships. Don’t expect to reap the rewards immediately. Good things come to those who wait.
  • Be prepared to ask questions. Anticipate the kind of people you are likely to meet and think about what you would like to ask them, what you would like to learn from them.
  • Don’t just talk about you. A tried-and-true rule is to listen 80 percent of the time, ask questions 10 percent and share your own opinion 10 percent. People are often most interested in hearing what they have to say and once they get a chance to do that, are more likely to focus and really hear what you have to say.
  • ALWAYS follow up. As the saying goes, fortune is in the follow up and so many let this opportunity go.
  • DON’T SELL. This tactic is more likely to annoy than build valuable relationships
  • Give back! Find ways to return the favour to those who have helped you. Networking is about relationships, and relationships are about give and take.
  • Be aware that valuable contacts can include people outside of your field, people at companies without current job openings, and people who seem to have less experience. You never know who can make the introduction you need.

Anywhere you network, it’s best to speak honestly and truthfully about your work and your aspirations.

Being authentic in your words and actions will take you a long way. Before you attend any networking event it is also important to make sure that information about you online and across social media is up-to-date and accurate. Part of being authentic is making sure public information about you is current and in-sync, and that includes your photos, resume and recommendations.