What does it mean to network? One definition has been defined as, a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
Sounds spot on eh (sorry, you can take a girl out of Canada, but you can’t take Canada out of the girl)? But what are the techniques and roads better chosen when enduring this gathering process. I have covered the topic of networking before – a popular topic indeed, especially for my DC followers, but this post includes a guide for readers to be more effective in executing successful networking capabilities.
So what should you be doing? To start, let go of the traditional networking exclusivity.
English: Stop just networking with the people you already know and at events where everyone does exactly what you do! Focus on your outer circle, or people who might not be in the same business as you. To start, assess who your target audience is; this will help you establish potential clients. Branching out is the first step to successfully networking, but it can’t stop there.
For example, as a public relations professional I attend a ton of networking events for folks in my field. It does allow me to stay abreast of the latest PR trends, make contacts in my field and create strong relationships with coworkers in the field. But most likely, these people are not my/your potential clients and are not going to be where you get the majority of your business. In order to do this, you need to:
1. Figure out WHO your ideal target client is and how that works into the long-term goals of your business. (If you are having trouble with this step, you need to do some thinking and get some strategic advice—feel free to give us a holler for help!)
2. Research the types of clients you are interested in targeting and individuals who lead those organizations. Then, find out what kind of communities they are part of or are involved in. For example, do they attend certain association or membership organization events, a golf club, eat at a specific restaurant etc.
3. Put yourself out there! Join groups or go to places that will allow you to mingle with your targets. Think of this as networking directly with the target in hopes of gaining more direct contacts and new business.
4. Follow through. Follow soon. Follow-up. I’m always shocked to watch people work so hard to make contacts and then slack off when it comes time to actually “do something” about it. Stay in touch with the contact; email them and for god sakes, email them back when they respond to you. You and I both know many of you are repeat offenders of that one.
So what’s the moral of this story? Keep up-to-date with those in your own field and immediate circle, but make sure to figure out your long-term strategic goals for your company, and what kind of client is part of that goal. Network, network, network, and then go forth and multiply!