I was speaking with a coach the other day who is just getting started in her new business. When she asked me about my experience with networking, I thought about what’s worked for me in my last 11 years of self-employment.
- Be visible – I strive to stay active in my networking groups and professional associations. To do that, I limit the number of groups I get involved with at any one time. I choose groups that I enjoy being part of and where I meet lots of people I can learn from and who can hopefully refer business to me and/or do business with me.
- Be positive – I strive to be a positive presence so that people associate me with positive feelings and feel good about the time we’ve spent together. This goes back to the Maya Angelou quote that I’ve placed at the top of my Business Plan for the last three years in a row: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Help out – Over the years I’ve volunteered in my various professional associations (right now I maintain the website of the Music Therapy Association of Ontario) and networking groups (I gave a free talk for the NCC). I also share lots of free and hopefully helpful information via email groups, Twitter, Ezine Articles (here and here), this blog and occasionally on LinkedIn. Helping out also achieves my other three goals.
- Educate – I listen for opportunities to share more about who I help and what I do. I strive to help my network recognize my ideal clients. Notice this is the LAST step in the process.
This approach applies to online and in-person networking. Using these strategies, I have successfully gained clients, referrals, motivation, inspiration, resources and countless ideas for my business.
So if you’ve given up (or are about to) on your networking activities because they “don’t work,” ask yourself if you’re using all of these proven strategies.