When you are working to build and grow a business, networking is a great way to get your name out in your community. The idea of “networking” often carries with it a stigma that may deter you from initially participating. It is, however, simply interacting with people in a business environment to help build your referral sources as well as your prospective customer database. How you network is up to you and from joining formal referral organizations to attending community networking events sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, the possibilities are endless.
As with any marketing activity, networking should be targeted to your niche and put you in front of your ideal customer or in situations where you can meet referral partners who can help you find ideal customers.
Once you have defined your “ideal customer” you might decide that learning to play golf and joining a golf club or a neighborhood Rotary Club will put you in contact with a large number of ideal possible clients. There is only so much time in any given week so be sure to use it wisely. Spending time networking at events that will not attract your ideal customer or referral base is not time or money well spent.
This does not mean that you will not meet wonderful customers or get great referrals from these experiences. It simply means that, for marketing strategy purposes, the more targeted your activities, the better your overall results.
In networking situations, you will meet two types of networkers: hunters and farmers. Hunters are typically so focused on finding good leads or customers that they do all the talking – about their company and their needs. Farmers are interested in planting seeds and investing in relationships. They know that, in the end, the yield will be plentiful. These farmers show interest in you, your business and your needs. Hunters will often be avoided in networking situations because of their “in your face” approach, while farmers are often sought out because other know that a relationship with them will be mutually beneficial.
The purpose of networking is to exchange information and make connections. The information you collect won’t do you any good unless you retain it in a data base, card file or some other system that allows you to have future interaction with the people you meet. Those contacts who could be potential customers or referral sources should receive intermittent contact or communication from you to help establish a relationship for future work or referrals. Create a system for yourself and use it.
Many people network without initiating any future interaction. That’s like fishing and throwing the catch back into the water – it is a fun activity, but it won’t net you anything to take home.
How do you network? Are you a hunter or farmer? Share with me over on my fan page. I would love to hear from you!