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Networking is a must for any business owner. The relationships built as a result can make the difference between just keeping the doors open and becoming a household brand. There is, however, an etiquette; one that many seem to forget or forgo.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the 'drive-by' networker. Networking is important and it's vital that, as a business owner, you attend as many functions as possible. It's equally as important to join groups whose specific purpose is networking.
Whether it's a trade show, a seminar, a chamber or organizational event or a one time event geared specifically for networking, there are a few key points to remember:
There are generally two primary groups: Free and paid. Both do have their place and value.
That depends on you and your business. If you're in a highly competitive field, being in a group with competitors could mean more selling. That's not why you're there. You have enough of that on the outside. For others it means collaboration. You'll have to decide this one for yourself.
Not always. While a large group means a greater potential reach, smaller groups tend to be more personal and lend themselves to better relationships. In either case, which is the better option for you depends on your business, your personality and the group's core membership. You need to spend some time networking with each group. Don't be afraid to join and back out later if the fit isn't right for you (just be sure you know the rules up front as I have found groups which require specific time commitments).
While I'm certainly not a fan of groups with policies restricting or limiting your ability to join others, there is a reason such policies exist. I've encountered a number of business owners and sales professionals over the years who will join every group (and attend every function) possible. I refer to these individuals as the 'Drive-By' Networkers. Their sole intent to get their name and brand in front of as many people as often as possible. As I mentioned above, the flaw with this thought process is a focus on building a database and not relationships. These individuals provide little value to the other members.
Relationships drive business. I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase, He who dies with the most toys wins. In the case of business, it's he who builds the best relationships wins. Quality of quantity.
When you're looking for a group or groups to join, by all means, go to as many as possible. It's the only way to know which ones will work best for you. From there, narrow it down to no more than two. Beyond that there is likely to be a signifiicant overlap in categories and that can create loyalty issues, especially when referring potential customers.
Regardless of what events you attend or groups you join, focus on others. Find out more about them. Make them want to find out more about you. Personally, I don't hand out my cards (much to my printer's chagrin). I'll wait until someone asks for one. This was I know I've peaked their interest.
What's your best piece of networking advice? How many groups have you joined? How often and what type of events do you attend and find successful? Do you have a great networking success story to share?
If you need some additional networking advice, contact MJ Jensen, your Chief Idea Officer, of IdeaMagic visionary marketing and social media. Tucson solutions for small business owners just like you. Ask about our $199 2-Hour Marketing Check-Up! Call us TODAY! (520) 326-7468