Networking is one of the most cost-effective ways of contacting prospects when used appropriately, professionally and wisely. The following are tips for getting started with business networking.
Explore several groups and find the best perceived value
Many groups will let you visit several times before you join. Ask others why they have joined and the benefit they are getting out of belonging. Resist the urge to join a group just because everyone is telling you to do so. If that is not your target group, you could be wasting much time or money. Be sure about what you'd like to gain out of a group before joining. If it's to meet prospective referral sources and clients, then you should be networking in places where such contacts can be found.
When you find a suitable group, join and attend meetings often
Don't go for meetings once or twice expecting instant results. Establishing win-win, mutually beneficial relationships is a process which takes time. The contacts you make should constantly see you and hear your message. Continuous contact over time will present opportunities for you t learn about others' ideas, capabilities and thoughts in regards to your business. Trust normally happens over time. Being persistent and regular will eventually pay off.
Do your best to be very visible within the group. Be on committees, become a leader or volunteer to help with meetings. Being involves benefits you and your business in various ways. First, you get more opportunities to make connections and get familiar with some contacts you've made. Secondly, the more visible you are, the more people are drawn to you as an authority in the group.
Keep your contacts informed
Don't assume that bumping into someone once in a while will automatically cause them to begin doing business with you. You need to tell them what's going on at all times in order to educate and inform them. Invite them to your open houses or events. Send them letters or emails to share success stories or big news, especially on anything relevant to them. If you think you have valuable information, resources and ideas to share, go right ahead and do it.
Before you get, you should be willing to give. This means you should know other members and what kind of prospects they are looking for. What information might you have that could be useful for them? Don't assume that others are familiar with everything. Ask them if they know about a certain resource and share if they don't. Being willing to give will raise the level of trust with others.
Focus on quality, not quantity
It is not about the number of contacts that you make, but about the quality. Are they win-win, mutually beneficial relationships? Quality connections involve sharing of information, resources and ideas by both parties. Maintaining a small number of quality relationships will usually be more productive than following up many superficial contacts.