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The Internet was made for networking.  Get involved in Mailing list groups.  In order to participate in one you subscribe to it, lurk for a while, then get involved with this community of people that you wish to know better. Think of it as moving into a new neighborhood and wanting to make a good impression on the neighbors. Give to the rest of the subscribers on the list by offering something of value, like content; after all, that's what people are usually there for. 

If there is no mailing list for the community you wish to address, you might well consider starting a list on a topic that would be of interest to your desired and defined group. Beware of the time commitment though. In order for this list to have a good "signal-to-noise" ratio, you'll probably wind up moderating it. I know list moderators who spend hours a day taking care of business. Weigh that time commitment against the value of the contact with that community carefully, because it is a long term endeavor. If it doesn't work, you'll look bad.

The mailing list universe is so big that no one database contains them all.    Take a look at the lists we sponsor or Tile.

Know your etiquette. Networking does you no good unless you leave a favorable impression.  You should be familiar with these etiquette rules.

Follow the Rules

Here is some good advice...

  1. Be Prepared. Networking happens in lots of places at scheduled and unscheduled times. It is essential to have networking tools available at all times...especially business cards. Be prepared for as many situations as possible with marketing material in all of your cars, in all purses/wallets, and at home AND your office.

  2. Be a Good Listener. People give lots and lots of clues about help they need. Great business opportunities abound for those with good listening skills. A good example would be the loss of a client. Are you losing a client because they are moving away? If so, that client is going to need a Realtor, a moving and storage company, a title company and lots of other services to make this move.

    Nowís a chance to help a client AND build relationships with companies who may refer YOU work in the future. Make those referrals to the client thatís leaving you. Call the companies whose services your client needs. You will be building relationships with companies that will still be around after your client has left.

  3. Give Before Receiving. The building of relationships is a give and take process. Be prepared to give of yourself FIRST. Be the first to pass a referral out. Be the first to share new information. Be the first to make the initial contact. Make it your responsibility to start the networking process by giving of yourself first.

  4. Follow-Up. Consistent, focused contacts build strong relationships. The follow-up process is like the relationshipís courtship. Follow up on that referral you sent. Did it turn into business for the company you recommended. If not, why? Hereís a chance to find out more specifically how you can help fellow business professionals. Follow-ups should have a purpose- to learn more information that will solidify that business relationship.

  5. Be Specific. When speaking to other people about your firm, speak in specifics. Real specifics. Help them focus on the faces of people and companies that they know. Donít say "Iím looking for everyone who needs financial planning services" if you are an investment advisor. We will have a hard time focusing on that big of a group.

    Instead, say " I am looking for people who are having a baby". We can focus on those faces. Or, "I am looking for people who are getting divorced". We can focus on those faces, too. Specifics help people focus on faces and therefore help others help you- FASTER!

  6. Choose Effective Networking Events. Time is very valuable so it is essential that yours be spent as productively as possible. Make sure the events that you attend specifically for the purpose of networking are set up to allow effective networking. You can determine that by looking at the time of day the function is held, the functionís agenda and who is sponsoring the function. Trying to do business at a social function will be very difficult and unproductive.

  7. Choose Contacts Effectively. There are certain fields of business that can help you on a regular basis with referrals, the sharing of information, and on supply sources. Those would be firms that offer products and services that compliment yours. In our example above, a moving and storage company can get lots and lots of referrals from a Realtor. Every sale for the Realtor is a potential sale for the moving and storage firm. Learn what fields of business could best help you with referrals and build strong relationships in those industries.

    And donít forget your competitors. In busy times, itís nice to have a place to refer work to that you canít handle, and to have a source for supplies or inventory if you should run low on something. Build good relationships with some of your competitors. After all, they are business professionals just like you.

  8. Share Your Resources. Help other business professionals and they will help you. Share information on good suppliers, on new technology and on "bad" clients. This is all information YOU need to run your firm effectively. Itís nice when others share it with ou. Be prepared to reciprocate.

  9. Keep Good Records. With the amount of information you will be mentally processing, it is impossible to remember everything. Keep good contact records. Besides the usual name-address-phone number stats, include info on hobbies, birthdays or anniversaries, favorite sports, etc. This information may be trivial, but when you remember a clientís, supplier or competitorís birthday when no one else does, YOU will be remembered.

  10. Never Stop. It can get to the point where you feel you have all the business relationships you need to insure your future success. There is no such thing. Humans are transient. They move. Sometimes they move the from the area they live in, sometimes they move within their field of business and sometimes they move to a new field of business. All of these changes can lose you a valuable contact. Make networking an ongoing process- the rewards far exceed the investment.