Connecting The Dots–What’s your networking strategy??

That’s right, you need a strategy!!

Many people have asked me to write some tips on networking since I do so much of it and find many leads through this important technique.  I’m providing some tips therefore on both offline and online networking.   You need to have general networking strategies as well as for specific events.  My primary strategy for both offline and online networking is to stay top of mind with people who may be in a position to refer business to me or who may be a direct prospect.

Offline Networking Tips:

First and foremost, you do need a strategy.  You need to have a more detailed blueprint for success than to just show up with business cards; although business cards are very important to have.  It never ceases to amaze me that people show up at networking events with no business cards.  What are you thinking??  I keep business cards in my wallet, in my car, at home and in the office.  So even if I run out, I always have a few more to share easily and quickly.  If all else fails, I have an app on my phone called CamCard which allows me to take pictures of cards.  I keep my own card as well in this app so I can easily share with people.  There are many other ways to do this as well.

There are two types of offline networking, regularly scheduled weekly(or other time frame) meetings such as SBR, mypinnaclenetwork or even BNI; and then open source networking events such as a Fourth Monday or Professional Night Mixer or MassConnect-Boston,  or Core Collaborative type of meeting to name a few I go to regularly.  The strategy for each are similar though.

Offline networking strategy 1:  Review the attendee list in advance.  That’s right.  In ADVANCE.  Identify people who you would like to meet who are registered to attend.  Via LinkedIn or Facebook, then cross-reference those people with others you know who will be in attendance, and ask for introductions.

Offline networking strategy 2:  Have an elevator pitch.  You should have an under 30 second summary of what problem you solve for people.  The point here is to engage, to give enough information to quickly summarize what you do and here’s the real trick, to have them ask a followup question. For instance, mine goes like this: ” We all know that most small businesses are under-served and overcharged for many of their services.  I help small businesses become more efficient and economic through a unique blend of service technology. ”

Offline networking strategy 3:  Be a connector of people. One of the key questions I ask is “Who are you looking to meet tonight?”  Offer to help them find either specifically named people or people who fit the business category they are looking to meet.  For instance, mortgage people are often looking to meet real estate brokers; or financial services people look to meet business owners.

Offline networking strategy 4:  Be memorable.  And in a positive way!!  You don’t want to be the guy who got drunk and said or did silly/stupid things.  Be professional!!!  One of my favorite questions and a way to be memorable is to ask someone “what do you like the most about what you do?”  This accomplishes many things, but what I like the most about it is that forever more, that person will associate you with the positive aspects of their job, even if they are unhappy or stressed out over what they do.

Offline networking strategy 5:  Have a goal.  For instance: to make two appointments with prospects; or connect 3 people with others; or find two new centers of influence.  Without a goal, you have no strategy and won’t know if it was successful or not.

Offline networking strategy 6:  Follow-up.  Hard to believe this even needs to be mentioned, but make sure to followup with people, particularly those you promised to connect with.  No better way to ruin your reputation than to not followup when you indicated you would.

Offline networking strategy 7:  Don’t pigeon hole people. I run into people all the time who are primarily looking for “decision makers”. Although they may be ultimately who you are looking for, don’t ignore people who don’t seem to be in a non-decision making role.  Frankly, you don’t know who people may know and that approach is short sighted and harmful.  That sales guy may be the owners son; the technician may have a side business; that owner may have other businesses, etc.  Welcome people into your world and reap the benefits.

Offline networking strategy 8:  Stop selling!!! As Jeffrey Gitomer would say, “people don’t like being sold to, but they do like to buy”.   Be the guy who connects, amuses, helps, etc.  and people will flock to you at networking events.  Be the guy always selling and watch people avoid you like the plague.

Online Networking Tips:

Many of the online tips I have are similar to offline.  You still want to be engaged, memorable, a connector, have a goal and followup.  However, how to accomplish that online differs a bit.

Online networking strategy 1: Make sure your profile(s) are complete, accurate and interesting.  It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t keep their profiles up to date, have outdated contact information, and have just plain boring profiles.  If you change jobs, update your profile(s).  If you change email, web site, blog, phone numbers, etc, update your profile(s).  You should post your picture. I’m always mistrustful of profiles with no pics.  And please, check for spelling errors.  Nothing ruins credibility quicker than showing you have no attention to detail.  If you aren’t a good speller, and still don’t understand how to use spell check, then at least have someone else review your proposed content before posting.

Online Networking strategy 2:  Be a top contributor.  This serves many purposes, primarily keeping you top of mind.  Like, comment, share and connect.  You want people to bump into you everywhere.

Online Networking strategy 3:  Support your friends.  Whether on Facebook or LinkedIn, make sure to like, comment on and even share your friends posts.  This primarily helps your friends, but keeps you top of mind as well.

Online Networking strategy 4: Have great content!  You want your profiles to be a place people can go for helpful, timely, accurate information.  In my opinion, developing and contributing your own content is significantly better than being one of those people who just link to others content.  If you want to be viewed as an authority, then develop your own content.  Occasional posting of others content is OK as long as it’s not your primary strategy.

I hope you found this helpful.  There are many other such personally developed stories/articles on payroll as well as networking/marketing topics here in my blog, please feel free to review at your leisure.  If you really want to know one of the best ways to become an overnight authority, and enhance your credibility, then make sure to grab your FREE copy of my downloadable book written in tandem with international bestselling author Gerry Robert.   Link found over here >>>>>>>>>>>>

Happy Networking!!!

Mitch Zucker
Chief Connector
Firewalker Development Group

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