Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 1: Understanding what networking is Networking is… Networking describes the reciprocal process of exchanging leads, recommendations and other information, through groups of established relationships, with the aim of making business processes easier and more profitable. It has also been described as unconventional marketing for maximum results from minimal resources. And it works! Networking is about using friendships, social settings, business gatherings - basically any situation that brings people together - to sell yourself and, as a result, your products and services. Specific events are organised to bring people together, but networking can take place anytime, anywhere: it is as much about attitude as tactics.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 2: Know the benefits The three main reasons to network… Determine the outcome Start by identifying what you hope to gain from the process. Do you want to generate sales, raise your company's profile or gain information and support? This should also be seen as an investment for the future. Things might be OK now, but in harder times, when business is quieter, it could be your professional network that carries you through. Harvey MacKay, successful businessman and author, sums this up as 'digging your well before you get thirsty'. You can network with relatively little outlay, particularly useful when cash restraints rule out other marketing techniques.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 3: Start business networking Please remember: At all times keep in mind that your aim is to attract the maximum attention in the most profitable location. Establish your primary contacts List all the networks you are already part of. That means, outside your family and friends, every acquaintance. These would include co-workers and bosses, past and present; people whom you share your time with; old school friends and people who provide services to you. These are your primary contacts. Is there anybody on the list that might be interested in what you have to offer? If so, arrange to have a chat with them. Next, consider all others that it may be useful to speak to. List every gathering beyond work and family; research friends of friends, family friends and acquaintances of colleagues that might provide a contact. These are your secondary contacts.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 4: Put your contacts list together Plan Like any activity, networking should not be left to chance but should be planned thoroughly. The pyramid planner below is a good visual way of getting this process started. It starts with you noting down the names of all your primary contacts and committing yourself to a date to get in touch. When you get in touch with a primary contact they might mention useful secondary contacts. Note the new name and commit to a date to get in touch with them. This pyramid can go on and on - it can have as many layers as you want.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 5: Track down other contacts Know where to look When you have exhausted your list, you might next consider the places where people of interest to you spend their time and are accessible. You are looking for places where like-minded people connect with each other. By no means exhaustive, here's a list of events, gatherings and networking opportunities to get you started.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 6: Draw up a plan Establish your targets Networking does not cost much money, but can take up a lot of time. You'll need to prioritise your networking efforts. Work out which events you think you should attend: who is going there and why are they attending? You will need to make allowances for trial and error, testing out a range of networking events and clubs before establishing which ones might be of most benefit. As you attend more events it is useful to set targets. Decide how many people you would like to talk to. Formal clubs and events are a good starting point. For clubs and associations, it is worth finding out how many members they have, how often they meet, whether you can obtain a directory of their members, what sort of events they run and whether you can attend as a guest before joining. You might consider whether it's worth sponsoring any of these events to get your business name and brand in the mind of the delegates/members. Can you speak at the event perhaps, or is it worthwhile becoming a delegate and turning up?
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 7: Establish Rapport Know what to say For some, chatting to people is second nature; for others, it's a much tougher proposition. The first thing to bear in mind is that networking events are generally relaxed, occurring outside the working day. It's more than just saying hello, handing over a business card and moving on to the next person. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of any conversations you may have.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 8: Create a database Document your contacts Names on business cards and your personal pyramid need to be transferred to a detailed database. Include this information:
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 9: Online networking Social networking There are an infinite amount of online networking opportunities, providing local, national and international business contacts. Having your own website allows customers to find you and features such as e-newsletters, daily tips and industry updates can help you create a successful network with clients. You can research networks, and access discussion groups and chatrooms such as 'myspace' and 'facebook', although be careful not to talk too much business! LinkedIn www.linkedin.com is a networking site specifically dedicated to business users.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 STEP 10: Measure your success How well are you doing This should be straightforward. Are you getting the appointments? If so, well done; if not, consider an analysis of where you're going wrong. It might be that you attended the wrong events or that you were expecting results too quickly. Is there an issue with your networking style? Consider contacting the people who you thought would come through and ask why they didn't.
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 How to be a good networker 1. Respond promptly to requests made by others 2. Work on building relationships rather than waiting for them to happen 3. Be an exceptional listener 4. Have good people awareness and develop the ability to recall important information 5. Be well organised 6. Be resourceful. Be aware of possibilities and suggestions rather than just believing something can or can't be done 7. Have clear goals, for yourself and your networks 8. Recognise that giving, asking and receiving are all part of the flow of a good network 9. Be consistent. Realise networking is a lifestyle and not just an 'act' for a specific occasion
Networking – let’s do business Barham Court, Maidstone, Tuesday 6 September 2011 Top 10 Networking tips 1. Establish the purpose of networking and prepare a plan 2. Target family, friends and friends of friends for networking opportunities 3. Create a pyramid of contacts and commit to a date to get in touch Create profiles of your existing customers and establish their activities and the networks they are part of 5. Research networking events 6. Prepare a budget of time and resources and prioritise your networking effort 7. Set yourself simple, achievable goals 8. Adopt a helpful attitude, be an 'active' listener, and be prepared with an 'elevator speech' 9. Develop some conversation starters 10. Create a database and diary some dates to get in touch. Regularly review your database and networking activities to see if they're generating the number of leads you want