There are so many networking groups out there. How do you know which ones are best for you and your business? And, how can you get the most out of each mixer or networking event?
Below are seven ways to help you figure out which networking groups could be a good fit while making new friends and acquaintances.
Explore Your Opportunities
There are generally three types of groups: business networking groups like your local Chamber of Commerce; service groups, such as Kiwanis; and industry-specific associations. Attend a group at least three times before deciding whether it’s for you or not. Groups don’t have to carry the “networking” label to be good opportunities. Where do people in your business’ target market hang out?
Many go to networking events or mixers with the hope or expectation that they’ll make a new client from that event. You’ll find more success, if you view networking as a long-term process. Get clear on why you’re networking. It’s about meeting new people, making new connections, and building relationships with other people.
Don’t Forget Your Networking “Accessories”
Of course, always go to a networking event with your business cards and a name tag that has your name and what you do, giving others an easy starting point for conversation. More importantly, make it a habit of writing notes on the back of each business card so when you follow up, you can personalize your calls and emails.
Be genuinely interested in the people you meet and ask questions that aren’t limited to someone’s profession. For example, what’s one way you have fun at work? What’s something that makes you different or unique in your industry? These questions can help open up the conversation and encourage connection on a more personal level.
Know What You Do & How You Help in a Nutshell
Have a clear, concise, and specific explanation of what you do and how it helps others. What problem (what “pain”) do you solve for your target audience? Be able to clearly articulate this without people’s eyes glazing over.
Offer Referrals Whenever Possible
Focus more on what you can give to others than on what you’ll get from them. Often, those who gain the most at networking events are those who give the most.
Be SURE to Follow Up
It’s the follow up that turns connections into relationships. Meeting people is just the beginning and the first contact isn’t the place for a sales pitch. Instead, follow up within 48 hours with something that will help the person like a free download or magazine article. The objective is to demonstrate your desire to help others and start building trust, not try to push your product or service the first change you get.