The Power of Business Networking in the Era of the Entrepreneur
In today’s entrepreneurial society where more and more Americans are pursuing the path to business start-up, it is becoming critically important to be able to build strong relationships and community through business networking.
The internet, social media, and advances in technology all combine to give us the power and ability to meet/connect with people instantly all over the world, but the power of bringing folks together to connect with them face to face is taking on a new importance as more and more people feel more “disconnected” than ever. Following are strategies that you and should employ as you begin to develop your 2014 strategic networking plan.
MEET FACE TO FACE…ONLINE
Distance-based meetings, workflow tools and networking systems make it extremely easy to “meet” with people from all over the world. There are a wealth of free, low-cost and high-end conference call and video-conferencing services to choose from including Skype, WebEx, GotoMeeting, Intercall, Join.Me Pro etc.
It is easier than ever to gain feedback, survey customers, seek feedback on new products and services using social media to ask questions. Survey tools like Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo, Cvent, etc. make it easy to gather feedback, test market receptiveness to your MPV (Minimum Product Value/offering, or the least finalized product concept you need to show people BEFORE you invest effort, time and resources in producing actual products.
Check out this great article on online survey tools.
You can ask questions with the folks you are connected with online using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or…post surveys on sites like Reddit, start discussions in user forums and chat rooms, or get feedback on organizations from present/past employers on Glass Door.
MEET IN-PERSON AND WORK THE CROWD
As networking groups proliferate, thanks in large part to networking platforms like MeetUp, Hapening, Bizzabo, and ShockLogic as online and face-to-face meeting facilitation tools, there can be a backlash against participating in networking events as a whole. Call it the “TOO MUCH MEETUP SYNDROME.”
How to conduct effective business networking…
THE ART OF MAKING FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Find organizations such as trade associations that connect members who are your ideal customer or the people you want to meet with to help you grow your business. The list of targets to identify include influential members o the media (and top bloggers in your fields) vendors, suppliers, potential partners, investors, and of course best client prospects. Join those associations, Business Forums/Roundtables, or community business groups that have members you want to reach. Seek out a manageable number of MeetUp Groups (ideally no more than 6-10) in your area and really engage. Invite fellow members of the Group to connect with you through LinkedIn BEFORE you meet them at events you register to attend.
It is important to do research on the folks in your groups that you feel you can work with so when you meet them for the first time you can make a great first impression by talking to them about their background, ask probing questions to get into the heart of their background experience, and passions, and what they are working on. Discuss the challenges they face and their long-term career and business goals. THAT is how to make an extremely powerful and lasting FIRST impression. Remember it is so true that you only get ONE chance to impress people the first time you meet (up) with them.
When you work a networking event consider the 5-2-1 RULE. In the first 5 seconds you have to have prepared a meaningful and engaging description of what you do.
Example: “Hi. I am Ethan Chazin, the compassionate coach. I help people realize their life dreams of finding their ideal job or launching a successful business.”
This “introduction” to what you do should get them to think/say: “WOW! Tell me more. “ Then you spend a few (TWO) minutes explaining then you move on to talk about them. After about 20 minutes of engaging the goal of both people feel a connection is to schedule a follow up meeting (ONE HOUR) after the event. Thus … 5-2-1.
Immediately after the event, make an impression by sending a person note through LinkedIn or email explaining why you enjoyed chatting with them. If appropriate, explain how it might be beneficial to work together and offer a FEW days and times to meet (ideally as soon after the event as possible so your conversation from the networking event is fresh in each of your minds.
FOR SUCCESS DEVELOP A STRATEGY
The people that succeed in networking have a strategy for meeting the RIGHT type of people. I have developed a Strategic Networking Plan that I use with the entrepreneurs, start-ups, business owners and professionals that I provide business management consulting to. Four tips for developing your own strategic networking plan in 2014 include:
* Provide a comprehensive description of your IDEAL potential client;
* List all of the relevant Industries that your ideal customer belongs to and the key Industry Associations that serve these industries;
* List all of the business networking groups or trade associations that you belong to; and
* List all of the strategies do you currently pursue to find prospects, then qualify those leads in order to pursue in your new client acquisition efforts.
IT’S ALL ABOUT TRULY CONNECTING
Most of all, remember that networking is a very cold and impersonal term born out of computers connecting. Building relationships is all about connecting and then building ongoing relationships of helping people, sharing information, reaching out to them, offering assistance, sharing interesting articles, connecting them to people they can benefit from meeting.
Most of all…have FUN! Always strive to give. People will gravitate to you when your first thought is helping…NOT SELLING.
Here’s to your success with strategic business networking in 2014!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch > Grow Your Business.