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
Follow the Rules
Here is some good advice...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.