Networking planning with purpose is fundamental to your networking success!
Why Plan Your Networking With Purpose
Networking is part of your marketing mix, which is why you must plan your networking with purpose.
It’s highly effective way of communicating your marketing message to get referrals. Essentially, you’re purposely creating positive word-of-mouth about your business.
Like any other form of marketing, you need have a plan.
Before Starting Your Networking Plan
Before starting your networking plan, you must establish what you want to achieve from your networking activities.
What does a return on investment mean to you? Is it just the fees that you pay out or is it about time that you need to put into networking to get results?
A lot of the time when I’m training people in the art of successful networking, I ask what does successful networking mean to you? What is it that you want to achieve? The initial response I get from these questions is, “Customers, Tracy, we want customers.”
That’s great, we all want new customers but….
What Do You Want And Why?
What do you want and why do you want it? This is a good starting point!
I know I’m no spice girl, but I do need to ask you what you want, what you really, really want?
There’s no time like the present, so let’s work that out right now. Perhaps grab yourself a pen and paper or take some notes on your phone/tablet.
Many aspects of business links to your overall business goals, but let’s dig a bit deeper.
Why do you want to start networking? If you’ve been networking for some time, why do you network?
In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek who is an expert in inspiring leaders to take action, focuses on Why, How and What. That’s what we’re going to focus on today, in that order.
So, let’s take a leaf out of Simon Sinek’s book.
Why are you networking?
Why are you networking or need to be networking?
How are you going to network?
What type of networking is a good fit for you and your business?
The Top Five Reasons For Networking
The top five reasons for networking are:
To win new business
Meeting new people
Finding a support network
Having access to a reputable supply chain
Being surrounded by likeminded people
Your Reasons For Business Networking
You need to establish your reasons for business networking.
Your why, may be one specific reason or a mixture of different reasons.
Your Why is the key to answering the how and the what……
I’ve recently split my networking training services into face-to-face and online. Since online networking has become an excellent route to market, let’s now split networking into these two categories, too.
If you want to meet new people and be surrounded by likeminded people, then face-to-face networking is going to be particularly important to you.
If, however, all you’re interested in is a reputable supply chain, then online networking and making connections, via Linkedin, for example, may be preferable.
Choosing The Right Networking Option
When choosing the right networking option for you, remember, that it’s important that you make choices that are right for your business, not just your personal preference. Let’s say, for instance, if you’re quite introverted or a tad uncomfortable about networking, then the safe option may be to hide behind your keyboard and build relationships online.
What you need to ask yourself is if that’s what right for your business. Often, our biggest rewards come when we get out of our comfort zone and do something that challenges us, so don’t close the door on face-to-face networking if you know it works for your kind of business.
Perhaps you’re a people person and online interaction and networking through social media isn’t for you. That’s ok, but you may be able to extend your reach even further if you combine the two approaches.
The Right Networking Platform For You
For now, let’s work out specifically what is the right networking platform for you.
If you’re choosing face-to-face networking, you’ve got many different options. When I started business networking in 2003, choice was limited. When I set up my own BoB Clubs North West networking groups, back in 2007, again the competition was much less than it is today.
These days, your choice is limitless. There’s some kind of networking groups and events out there for every business and to suit every individual
There are non-committal open networking events where you can just pay as go. These are great to tip your toe in the water or if you don’t want to commit to attending a regular networking group.
Open networking is more about meeting new people, some of whom you’ll never see again. Whilst others you may build a relationship with. Don’t be expecting quick results with this. Sometimes, people need to see you over and over again to build trust, so bare this in mind. That said, you might just meet your ideal customer and hit it off immediately.
Commitment Levels When Business Networking
Commitment levels when business networking will vary depending on the type of networking you choose. If you’re choosing solely to do open networking, because you don’t want to commit to a regular networking group, please remember that no one has to commit to you either.
Then there’s the membership-based networking groups that you will need to commit too. Some membership groups are referral based where members collaborate to refer as much business to each other as possible. Others just bring members together at meetings and it’s up to you to take it from there.
You Need To Do What’s Right For you When Networking
You need to find what’s right for you when networking. If you’re thinking about joining a membership based networking group, because you want referrals, then make sure you get exclusivity and lock out the competition. Otherwise, members loyalty may be divided.
On the other hand, if gaining new business is not top of your why list, and you’re just after support and networking with likeminded people, perhaps a networking group with no business sector exclusivity will work for you.
This is entirely up to you of course, but my general rule of thumb would be that one referral based networking group, per person, not per company. Plus attending other open networking events and regularly networking online will help.
Some people think that working their way around as many networking events as possible is best, because they will meet more people. However, consistency is key. People need to come into contact with you, like you and trust you before they’re going to do business with you or refer you onto someone else, so building relationships with a small number of select people will help you get referrals.
Be patient, though, because often it takes time to get results!
Do Some Research!
Next you need to do some research, and start attending some networking groups and events. Even if it’s online for now!
Have a look online, ask for recommendations on social media, speak to other people about the networking that they do. Remember, though, that it’s important to make your own mind up about which type of networking is right for you.
If you’re still unclear, by all means message me and I’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
And last, but by no means least, my favourite saying ever is – Just do it! Just do something today to get you closer to where you need to be.
I hope you found this networking skills blog useful.
If I can help with planning your networking with purpose, networking training , networking coaching, more networking blogs, Better Networking Podcasts or other business radio interviews, it’s all here for you.
Very Best Wishes,