When we here at Culture-FX talk to other business owners about networking, we commonly hear statements that range anywhere from “I know I really should network more, but I just don’t have the time” to “I like networking, but it’s difficult to squeeze into my day. More importantly, I can’t seem to calculate any return on my investment.”
From our perspective, we’re aware that networking is usually more art than science. And that ratio depends greatly on your industry, as well. Keep in mind a few of the easy tips below. They’ll assist you with increasing your ROI on your networking efforts.
1. Use a Modest Portion of Your Week for Networking Online
Networking at events is great. Yet make sure that you don’t stop there. Accumulating a stack of business cards and leaving them to gather dust in your desk is the wrong approach. Instead, take the time and effort to reach out and invite your new contacts into your social networking ecosystem. What I’ll usually do is to get some business cards from good leads, then perform some follow-up searches on them. Then I’ll invite them to join my network on LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook, and any other networks we might share. This way you’ll be seen as a friendly person — and you can also use these connection later for a range of strategic networking purposes, as they’ll be staying in touch with you.
There’s another plus to this practice: When you add people you’ve met at your networking events to your social networks as well, that’s a good way to see those victories carry over to your next endeavors and ventures. It’s also a good way to keep people engaged. Keep your network informed and up to date about what you’re on the lookout for and what you’re doing. This will keep them volunteering their resources as you let them know that you need them. Keep in mind that great networking is a two way street, though. Remember to offer your own resources as they become available.
2. Give Your Network Value
Many people forget the most common missing ingredient in networking: Value. Once you’ve gotten people from networking events into your social networks, spend some of your time giving them some value. That doesn’t mean constantly trolling for clients, telling people what you’re looking for and advertising what you do. It means to spend some time creating posts that you think your network would find useful, interesting, or helpful. The more you can do this, the more your social network will value you. Not only that, you’ll slowly be growing your emotional bank account with your network.
If you make requests to your social network without investing anything into it first, then you won’t get back quality answers. You’ll be seen as someone who simply wants to leech value from their network and not make any effort to return value. Instead, if you take the time to make deposits first into your emotional bank account, the others in your network will see you as a giver, and be much more willing to return value to you when you ask for it. You have to offer value first in order to get value back, in other words.
3. Notice What’s Working and What’s Not
There’s usually a lot going on in any networking environment. There’s all sorts of people, of a variety of different backgrounds, all milling about in many different areas. As you’re networking, try and keep track of the things you’re doing that are generating the most of what you want to see happen. And for the events you go to in the future, try and recreate the situations that led to those positive results in prior events. For instance, notice what types of conversations you engage in that work out the best for you. Then seek out those types of conversations next time.
You can also implement this trick in relation to where you get into conversations faster. For me, high traffic areas work the best, such as around the bar. That’s because lots of people are usually waiting in line to get a drink — easy targets for quick conversations. But if you notice yourself getting into more conversations when standing somewhere else, then keep what works for you, and get rid of what doesn’t.
4. Don’t Leave Unless You Have an Appointment
Sure, I won’t deny that it’s a challenge to enter a room full of people you don’t know, find common ground with them, then try and make sense of how they can be helpful to you meeting your goals. And on the occasions you don’t immediately see value, you can be sorely tempted into leaving early. In order to make the best out of your time, though, try and commit to not leaving unless you’ve made at least one appointment to see someone there, after the event is over.
You never know what that meeting might turn into. Scheduling that one meeting with that person you’ve met at networking event — so long as they’ve met your list of minimum qualifications — might turn into a a great sales lead for you, or be your next greatest connection.