3 Simple Ways to Upgrade Your Business Network

Are your networking efforts netting new business? Owners often mistakenly assume that if they attend enough networking events, their business will magically grow. Job seekers tend to make the same mistake when seeking a new career situation.

There is only one way for networking to produce business growth: by connecting in a natural way with your ideal clients during your various activities. If you notice that you’re not meeting many of these folks at your current networking events, it’s time to re-evaluate where you’re hanging out. Socializing is fun – but let’s face it – it doesn’t pay the bills.

I was talking about this issue last week with one of my clients. “Robert” has been seeking to increase sales at his marketing organization. Rob’s been networking a lot, but finding it hard to meet high-value connections – the ones that actually have the potential to boost his revenue.

So we spent our coaching session rethinking Rob’s networking strategy. As we listed the characteristics of his ideal clients, we decided that it would make sense to target CEOs and VPs of Marketing in specific industries. These individuals would understand the strategic marketing value his organization can provide – and would also have the power to make a buying decision.

Now, think about it. Are CEO’s and VP’s of Marketing likely to attend leads groups, networking breakfasts etc.? Only somewhat likely. So, paradoxically, it will be important for Rob to extend his networking efforts past groups whose main purpose is networking.

Where is Rob going to find these people? Here are a few ideas:

1. Conferences. Business leaders think strategically, and value the input from issue-related conferences. For a list of conferences related to a specific industry, start with a simple Google search such as “professional associations Canada” and you’ll find a variety of lists. Pretty well every association has some kind of annual conference. Choose a few key ones and allot part of your marketing budget toward attending them.

While you’re there, figure out how your business or skills can contribute to this particular community and start working toward becoming a speaker. Think outside the box. For example, I’ve been invited to speak to hard-nosed engineers, project managers, and logistics people about the soft-skills topic of “Dealing with Difficult People”. So while you’re at the conference, make connections and map out how you can become a speaker at their next event.

2. High-end Networking Events. This includes charity balls, galas, golf tournaments, that sort of thing. Of course these tend to be expensive – that’s why you need to go. Executives can afford them. Always regard these events as an investment, never an expense.

3. Professional Associations. While you’re checking out conferences, remember that most professional groups have a local monthly or bi-monthly meeting. This is a great place to make helpful connections at the local level. Focus on providing value and building relationships, NOT selling your services. Save your sales process for one-to-one meetings after you’ve developed solid connections through effective networking.

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Yours in growth & learning,

Lois

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