Network With Intention to Get the Maximum Return from Your Investment of Time and Money
As freelancers, we get very comfortable at home in our sweat pants and slippers — sometimes too comfortable: to the point where we don’t want to leave our cozy writing dens.
However, sometimes we must get out and mix and mingle with the business world. I’m talking about networking. While I tend to find most of my clients through my Tried-and-True-Cold-Call System, I’ve also landed some great projects at networking meetings.
Where I live, there is plenty of opportunity to network with peers and potential clients. In fact, there are so many organizations and events that I have to carefully pick which to attend and which to ignore. After all, each event is an investment of my time, and often includes a cost, as well.
Two sure bets for me include the monthly luncheons of the American Marketing Association and the Association for Women in Communications.
Networking — Then and Now
Like my other freelance self-promotional efforts, I have not attended networking events for the past several years. The first meeting I attended recently was a breakfast sponsored by a local social media group. A few months ago they held a breakfast that featured a panel of experts discussing book marketing. I gathered a couple of business cards at that event.
Typically my goal for each event I attend is to talk to and share business cards with at least three people. In the old days, before social media, I would typically send my new contacts an email to say how pleased I was to meet them and hope we stay in touch.
I’ll never forget when, about 15 years ago, I met a marketing manager for a local high-tech company. He said I should connect with him on something called LinkedIn. He exclaimed that it was an up and coming online networking tool. That was my introduction to what is undeniably today’s most powerful social media site for business.
But times have changed. Now there are so many more ways to connect with our contacts. At the social media event I attended, the two people I met said to connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, as well as LinkedIn. I’m not sure how all of these new ways of staying connected will play out — but I’m looking forward to finding out.
My Best Networking Tips
When attending networking events, it’s important to get the most out of them that you can. Here are my best tips for maximizing the networking experience:
1. Speak to at Least Three People.
This is easier if the event includes a sit-down breakfast or lunch, because you can easily talk to the people on either side of you, plus one more at the table. However, you should challenge yourself to also speak to people while you are walking into the event, standing in line for a buffet lunch, and leaving the event. If you can meet more than three, then your investment will be that much more rewarding.
2. Share Business Cards.
Sometimes business cards can seem so 2000 in our new world of online everything. But they are still the easiest way to share all of your key information with others – including all of your social media addresses, email, and phone number. If the people you talk to don’t have business cards, don’t let that deter you. Just ask for their names and email addresses. Let them know you’ll follow up after the event.
3. Follow Up With Your Contacts Right Away.
Don’t let your connections forget who you are. Send them a follow up email the same day, or at the very least, the next day.
4. Find Ways to Stay Connected with Your Contacts.
In his book, The Ripple Effect: Maximizing the Power of Relationships for Your Life and Business, author Steve Harper offers tips for unlocking the amazing potential of your personal and professional networks. One of his tips is to “keep the conversation going” with new contacts. You can do this by finding ways to reach out through social media. Find articles they might be interested in and share them. Offer to recommend their services. Mention them on social media. These are all good ways to build relationships that ripple out and impact your career immediately and down the road.
Networking — Full-Steam Ahead
In the spirit of my full-steam ahead client search, I’m on a networking binge. This week alone I’m attending three events:
- Face2Face. A book launch and discussion on “Conscious Capitalism” by the founder of Whole Foods, John Mackay.
- American Marketing Association. Jamey Heinze, chief marketing officer at CDS Global, will discuss the mechanics of modern marketing.
- Association of Women in Communications. Marketer Ronne Rock will speak on the topic of sharing your brand promise through storytelling.
I’ll let you know how they go!
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