Let's face it, sometimes business networking gets results and sometimes it feels like a waste of time.
But the difference between a successful networking experience and a total failure is rarely related to the networking event. More often than not, it has to do with your networking strategy.
You don't leave any other part of your business to chance, so why roll the dice with your networking efforts?
Get more intentional about business networking and tap into the benefits of business networking by applying the following business networking strategies:
- Organize your information. Did you leave your last tradeshow or networking event with a cluttered mess of business cards and contact materials? The success of your networking efforts won't be determined by how many business cards you collect. It will be decided by what you do with those business cards when you get home. As soon as you can, block out a few minutes to organize the contact information you gathered at the event.
- Prioritize contacts. Some of the contact information you culled from the networking event is more important than others. Before you take any further action, prioritize your contacts based on their importance to you and your business.
- Look for common contacts. Consider the possibility that you might have contacts in common with your highest priority networking event contacts. For example, let's say you are especially interested in building a relationship with the owner of a large company. Although you just met him at a tradeshow, someone else in your business network may already have a networking relationship with him. Ask around and leverage their relationship in your follow-up efforts.
- Initiate Follow-Up Contact. Try to initiate follow-up with high priority contacts within a week of your first meeting. Phone calls and emails are sufficient for most contacts, but if you are trying to develop a networking relationship with a "big fish" you might need to get a little more creative. Some experts suggest sending high value contacts a handwritten note and business card to lay the groundwork for a phone call.
- Offer a Benefit. Be persistent about getting in touch with high value contacts. But once you reach them, you need to be prepared to offer them a reason to continue a relationship. A "remember me" moment isn't a good enough excuse, so you should be prepared to talk about how you can both benefit from an ongoing networking relationship.