By T Horsley, Jan 9 2017 09:45AM
Welcome to 2017, I do hope that your business is moving along nicely and you have been able to achieve some of the goals you set down at the begining of 2016.
A goal is something to aim for with effort. Needs to be realistic and quantifiable, has an end date and importantly don't forget, you can modify it along the way.
Too many people set goals and then fail, mainly through not being realistic enough and not taking into account changes in their business.
I will talk about goals at some other point, the focus of this particular blog is Networking. Is it worthwhile, should you do it, where do you go and how long for? Are many questions that you need to answer yourself, as each business is different.
One thing is for certain though, if you think you can walk into a room full of people and expect them to buy from you straight away then you are dreaming.
Much has be written about networking and their are endless website, blogs, articles and books on it. So why do I hear you shout are you bothering to add your twopennies worth.
Well the simple answer to that is. I can.
Some points that people forget very quickly is that for those that run them its a source of income and their only objective is to get more people to join so they can make money out of it. They don't care how long you stay or how often you go, as long as you pay.
The people who chair/run or those who take a role in each meeting benefit from lower joining rates, extended membership or freebies of some discription or another. They care how long you stay because the bigger the group the better the benefits they get.
So don't ever start to think you mean anything more than a paycheck to them. To be fair if I had thought of some of the large networking groups a few years ago I certainly would like to have that source of income, so fair play to them.
Everyone is out for themselves which is fine because they all have their own business to run and they need to grow that business by getting new clients etc. So once you embrace that and look at everyone at the network meeting with a, dare I say, cynical eye, then it should hold no surprises for you.
Knowing how to network is critical, treat it very much like a sales appointment, look, listen, watch, elavuate and act.
Look: Try to arrive early and look at the signing in table and scan the attendee list, you are looking for the type of businesses that are there.
Listen: Grab a drink and circle amongst the attendees to catch a snippet of their conversations.
Watch: See who gravitates towards each other, I normally go to the person that is on their own, chances are they are new and possbily don't know anyone.
Evaluate: When the time comes to talk about who they are and what they do listen and analyse what they are saying.
Act: Pick the people you want to meet and approach them, even if they can't chat to you there and then get their business card with a promise to ring them later or see them next time.
Almost everyone will want to tell you about themsleves and if they start asking you about you then return the questions and get them talking again. This gives you a chance to see what sort of person they are really like. I met someone the other day and she asked me what I did about my marketing so I told her, within seconds she had lost interest and was looking to move on. ( I laughed, it does amuse me when they do that.)
So what are you looking for I hear you say? Well, what you are after and it will depend on your business but you are looking to see if you can work out who their customers are and whether or not they have potential for getting you an introduction to them.
Sounds complicated but image you are photographer and you are talking to an electrician, who are his customers? Could be schools, hotels, manufacturers all of whom are potential customers for you.
Initially you need to go regularly by that I mean at least one or two a week to different ones. You will then quickly pick up on the people who are habitual networkers and asscociations. I will cover those at later date and why this is important.
I have been going to networking events for about 8 years and it does pay off if you put the effort in, at the end of each year you have to work out how much money you have spent and what the return on this investment was, just like any other marketing activity you engage with.
You will also get to know some professional individuals which not only you can use for your own business but also once comfortable with, introduce them to your clients as well.
In Part 2 of this I will dig into more detail about why Look, Listen, Watch, Evaluate, Act are important and what you need to do after the network event.
In the meantime, if you haven't been to one for a while, go and have a look it will only cost about 15 quid.