Are you an entrepreneur or a high-end consultant that values networking?
Perhaps you’re looking to advance your career and are in need of building a strategic network?
If so, I’m sure that you’ve had your fair share of unsuccessful attempts at networking. Perhaps you were successful but are not satisfied with the outcome of a particular event, meeting or a one to one conversation.
When it comes to networking, it’s not always that case that you will get your desired outcome. In fact, in most cases, you will probably only achieve less than 40% of your anticipated objective.
So, why does networking matter? And, how can you attain a better outcome whenever participating in a networking event?
Being successful in networking can have tremendous benefits for your business, career or simply your personal development. Having a genuine quality network of individuals, professionals, and organizations at your fingertips can help you achieve better results in terms of business and help you progress to the direction that you most desire.
In order to effectively network, there are a series of tactics and strategies that you need to hold near and dear to you. In fact, you will find that there are 11 key points that you should focus on when building a strategic network, no matter what the purpose.
1 – Become An Active Participant In Your Niche
If you’re looking to expand your reach and grow your Rolodex of contacts, it’s important that you’re actively participating in events that are specific to your niche.
For example: If you’re in the Finance niche and are a specialist who provides private loans to Real Estate professionals, it’s important that you join networking events that are tailored to bring together both lenders and buyers of properties under one roof.
Doing so, you will not only get a network of potential Real Estate purchasers but will have a first-hand experience in getting to know these potential clients. Other benefits of joining niche specific networking events are that you can build strong deal sourcing funnels or can establish strategic partners to help you in areas outside of your own expertise.
How Do You Find These Events To Participate In?
There are so many ways to find the appropriate event that is specific to your industry or niche. The obvious first step you may want to consider is a simple Google Search. You can try search queries such as the following:
- “Your Niche + Conferences”
- “Your City + Your Niche + Events”
- “Meetup + Your Niche + Your City”
Although the above-referenced queries represent specific requests, you can try other combinations that we haven’t discussed yet.
You can also try looking at your local chamber of commerce website to see if there are any events that you may be interested in. I strongly urge you to pick up the phone and give a call to them to learn more, given that you’ve identified an event that you’d like to participate in.
Also, if you’re looking to network for advancing your career, you should consider job fairs and other avenues such as participating events hosted by your company (given that it is large enough and has room for expansion). This way – you can take advantage of meeting different professionals and human resource specialists who are eager to fetch new talent for their team or company.
2 – Never Burn Your Bridges
We all know how important it is to keep old contacts. Circumstances may have it that one day – you might just need them.
When it comes to effective networking, keeping a positive vibe between old and existing contacts is a must. In fact, most entrepreneurs who grow to be extremely successful often start from their own territories by providing solutions that help the people they know.
You obviously need something that your network will appreciate and value long-term. Also, in certain times, values shift, which means that each person will have a different want. Being an effective networker means knowing these “wants” and being analytical in terms of how to get them closer to their goals.
It is also wise to just pick up the phone and follow up on old contacts that you met previously. These contacts may be in the niche specific events that you’ve attended but have not been in touch since the networking session that took place. Often, you’ll come to realize that they may need something that you can provide.
3 – Sharpen Your Expertise
It’s important that you’re constantly striving to learn more, become better at what you do and truly master the concept of branding yourself.
When it comes to demonstrating a skill set or expertise, it’s important that it appears genuine. Thus, being proactive in terms of constantly reading new material that helps add value to your core offering and attending strategy sessions with key movers in your niche would be a wise move.
You may also want to consider avenues of how you can get specialized training in the field that you’re in. What’s even better would be the concept of these training programs giving you unique credentials via a certification that is recognizable in your niche. By doing that, not only will you invest in yourself long-term, but are also showing the people you network with that you’re serious and highly focused.
To take it a step further, it’s also important that these certifications be of value to your business or yourself above all. By ensuring that you’re extracting the maximum value from them, you can better serve the needs of your network and your potential clients or even your future employer.
4 – Listen Attentively And Engage When Requested
There are two extremes to this statement. You can listen, listen, listen and not pay attention or you can simply listen, learn, analyze and answer – when requested.
When it comes effective listening, you have to show real-time interest and dig deep into the thoughts of the person initiating the conversation. Sometimes all it takes is simply listening to them talk about themselves, what they do, where they work, or even what they are most excited about, until that point where they ask you about yourself.
It’s important that you listen to them with your undivided attention. They will appreciate it and feel that they have made a connection. Better yet, when they ask you to elaborate more on who you are and what you do, you can play the right card. In essence, you want to stay as humble and well composed as possible. People can tell if a person is being real or if they are faking it. By being simplistic, people will always want to try and learn more. This is due to curiosity and because of natural phenomena about just wanting to dig deeper to satisfy the need to know as humans.
5 – Be Supportive And Diligent
Sometimes, being an effective networking can simply mean complimenting often and at the right times.
You just read about my previous point where I discussed being an attentive listener. Well, the same goes for being supportive. When listening, it’s very likely that you’ll uncover a few things about the person you’re having a discussion with. It may be that at times, the things they discuss with you are not necessarily always positive. If and when these incidents occur, you want to be as supportive as possible.
Being supportive doesn’t necessarily mean just comforting them about their problems. You will need to go up and beyond that and even consider providing insightful and helpful tips that may help them in one way or another – solve their problems.
You’ll learn that by being there for your network, things will end on a positive note for you. This can lead to more business, establishing a deeper connection with someone you’ve helped and even being branded as someone who’s credible and trustworthy.
6 – Leverage Social Media And Connect Further
I can’t emphasize enough on the importance of Social Media and why you should use it as a networking tool. There are so many different social platforms to choose from. And, if you’re really looking to make the maximum impact, I strongly urge you to be active on LinkedIn.
When you hop onto Social Media, you’ll probably notice a lot of different shares, likes, and comments from your network based on their unique preferences. From professional opinions to sharing thoughts of Sentiment, Social Media has always been a hub for getting the word out. This should be the same when it comes to following up on a networking event of activity.
While it’s true that people simply click the “connect” button on LinkedIn without really knowing the person, I strongly advise you to use it as a means to further your communications only after having met someone or talked to them. Although there is nothing wrong with connecting with professionals who you’ve never met before on LinkedIn, you may want to make an effort to keep your list of followers and contacts purely based on established connections.
Truthfully, even I am guilty of connecting with total strangers on LinkedIn by reviewing their profiles and bios. And, while there is nothing wrong with that, I have noticed that there is very low activity when it comes to me sharing a professional post or opinion. You can conclude that this is due to the fact that I’ve never met or spoken to them before. Hence, if you’re looking to maximize your reach and effectiveness on LinkedIn, a recommended best practice is to leverage it only once you’ve made initial contact prior.
7 – Personal And Business Life Need To Be In Sync
There may be a certain degree of disagreement with me on this point, however, when it comes down to it, effective networking is a lot more personal than it is business.
Knowing how to connect with the people you talk to in events, get togethers and face to face needs to be as personable as possible. You need to make the effort of humanizing your conversations as much as you possibly can. Often, people will feel at ease to open up to you and a lot more comfortable discussing business when it is appropriate.
It helps to ask appropriate questions such as; their lifelong goals, what they wish to achieve short-term, what struggles and pain points they would like to solve as well as many other related non-intrusive personal questions. Not only will this help you learn about the individual but it will also help you establish yourself as person who is considered a good listener and more often than not, these same people will feel strongly about sharing their ideas, concerns and issues with you.
The outcome will be a more deeply connected network of individuals that you can closely related to and can engage in activities that are both meaningful and evergreen in terms of your business or career.
8 – Learn To Contribute Value Regularly
Most people have the notion that going into a networking event or conference is only for the purposes of taking something without really putting much effort of giving back.
You need to establish your standards from the get go that if you are to attend any networking events, whether it be present or future, that you have some value to contribute and that you will be helpful in one way or the other.
It’s important that you determine the type of value you think you can add, especially if it’s niche related. There are many forms of contributions that you can possibly make and they will all vary depending on the crowd or network that you will be speaking with.
Consider putting together a list of what you feel will add value to an event or to a particular network and prepare yourself to be able to deliver it in a way that is easily digestible. Sometimes, you will feel that the contribution that you wish to make is extensive and is a lot to digest in a single event or meeting. Thus, preparing bite-sized content may be the best way to deliver your value proposition.
If done regularly, people will notice it and will see you as an authoritative figure in your niche. Ultimately, this will help you establish a strong and reliable brand.
9 – Segment Your Network Properly
While all the ideal goal may be to attend as many networking events as possible, you still need to prioritize them based on what will give you the best results. To do this, you will need to learn on how to segment them.
When it comes to segmenting your networks, you have to list them in the order of most to least effective. Also, you’ll need to properly describe the reasons why they are the most effective in contrast to why they are the least effective. For example, say you attend a conference where you meet a lot of affiliate marketers who specialize in digital marketing.
For example, say you attend a conference where you meet a lot of affiliate marketers who specialize in digital marketing. The goal of that conference is to share insights about what works and what doesn’t in today’s digital publishing world. Throughout this event, you may come across some influential figures who are willing to sit down with you and give you some neat insider tips and tactics. Whereas in another event, which takes place locally, you’re invited to a dinner party where only 5 to 6 people show up and they are all starting off their digital marketing careers. They ask you to join them and go to a strategy session. Assuming that these two events were to take place at the same time and day, which would you choose?
Prioritizing and segmenting are essential to your networking activities. You need to know what will add value to your bottom line so that in return, you can do the same to others to become a successful networker.
10 – Aim To Become A Thought Leader
It’s important that people who consider themselves experts in their own fields focus on becoming thought leaders.
Essentially, when you venture into a specific niche, you will most probably have followed a few experts that you look up to and consider their expertise to be of benefit to you. In that sense, the same people that you admire for their expertise are considered thought leaders to you.
The same needs to be established in terms of standards for yourself. Going deep into networking, when people start communicating with you and start asking you about what you do and have done, you would want to spark their interest by demonstrating your expertise that resonates in a prominent way. In order to do that effectively, you’ll need to have branded yourself as a thought leader.
When it comes to thought leadership, there are so many different ways on how you can approach it. Some consider writing a book a contribution towards their niche, thus turning them into instant thought leaders. While others say that creating a series of different episodes that interview experts in their niche and turning those episodes into podcasts are the way to go.
What it will ultimately boil down to is how you wish to approach it. No matter what direction you choose, it’s important that you are able to do it consistently to avoid being branded as “inconsistent.”
11 – Scale It Up And Learn From Experience
Once you’ve become comfortable with networking and have a more clear direction on how you wish to pursue it, consider upgrading your experience.
There are a variety of ways which you can scale up your networking activities. Here are some basic suggestions that may come in handy:
- Consider becoming a host and inviting your existing contacts to join you for a get together or a networking session. Be creative and make it unique. After all, branding is key
- Find events and networking conferences that require a fee based submission. I’m not saying to look for just “any and all” fee based networking groups but consider the ones that have a good reputation and attempt to join them. This way, it will help you get one step closer to people who have already committed by showing that they are serious.
- Create or join a networking event that has activities. It may sound super obvious but having an activity based session may be extremely fun and you never know who you’ll bump into. It also helps by acting as mechanism similar to ice breaker exercises.
Beyond that, since and repeat the process for as many times as you wish. It’s important to be a regular in the networking groups that you join. You’ll often hear people say that “Mr. So and so have been with us for X many years, etc.”
Effective networking is a constantly changing landscape. If you’re serious about it, it’s important that you be prepared and put effort towards it. Many great business deals were closed due to networking and it has always been considered one of the most effective ways of conducting transactions.
Keep trying and it’s important that you learn from experience. For every failure or dissatisfaction, consider revising what you may have done wrong or if the networking activity was out of your strategic objective. You will most certainly uncover many things as you become more and more familiar with each and every event.
If you felt that this post was helpful, I encourage you to share it and help those who may need these actionable tips and tactics. It’s time to pay it forward.