Nothing is more annoying to me than showing up to a networking event only to have people spend all of their time puffing themselves up and trying to sell you something on the spot. That kind of ‘networking’ doesn’t work for me, and I bet it doesn’t work for you. Are you ready for the first secret to effective networking?
Secret #1: Stop networking for yourself and start networking for other people.
Networking is a relationship building interaction. It takes time to nurture a positive networking relationship and the best way to get that started is to truly get to know the people that you are trying to influence as people first. If you look at your most successful relationships in life, they are built on trust and take time to develop. So, the first tip is to give more than you expect to get back by building the favor bank. We all understand how banks work. You put money in to the bank first, and then you can take it out. The more money that you deposit into a bank and the longer that money stays in the bank, the more you have to withdraw from the bank.
So, how do you begin to network for others? Constantly be in places where you will meet people who have a complimentary interest. Then, listen to who they are, what they need and think of at least one thing that you can do for them. Always offer something to them before asking them for something yourself. Is there another person that they should meet? An organization they should know about? A class that you know that would help them? Begin to get a reputation for being someone who helps connect people and someone who helps them.
Here is my practical example. When I started my consulting practice in the 1980’s I came up with an idea to write a magazine that featured the organizations in my target market. I would approach the leaders of these organizations and ask if they would give me some time to interview them so that their organization could be featured in my magazine. The magazine was then circulated wildly within their communities. This was a free service. I got to know these leaders and what they were doing for their consumers. I would share my consulting services, leave a brochure behind, but not ‘sell ‘anything at these meetings. When the magazine was published, I would personally deliver the magazine copies and remind them what I did, but still not push. I would also point out other organizations featured and help them to see if there were any connections that could be made among them. I would ask them to call me if they were ever in need of my services, and to please let anyone else know about my services if they heard the need. I got seventeen clients that way in one year.
Secret #2. Become a part of their success story.
Nothing is more effective for your marketing than doing something for someone that is so memorable and so helpful to them that you become part of their story. ‘How did you come to be so successful’? Someone asks and the answer is; ‘Your name here’ taught me… introduced me to… encouraged me to… invited me to… supported me by…’ When you meet someone new look for connections. What are the possible connections that they have with you and your business or work? What connections could they possibly have with others that you know? Helen was part of my success story. I was a new consultant, young and working with mostly men in manufacturing plants. Helen was a student in a class that I was teaching. She was a woman and a nonprofit executive. And she launched my career. She told EVERYONE she knew how much I helped her with her strategic plan. She really modeled this type of networking for me.
When someone helps us, it is our human nature to want to help them too. So, actually, the more you help other people in their marketing efforts, the more they will think to help you. The strangest thing happens when the focus stops being about you and more about helping the other person. More comes back to you than you gave in the first place.
Secret #3. Tag yourself for people so that they know exactly how they can help you.
Even though you begin the networking experience making sure that you help others first. Make sure that people know exactly how they can help you. People need to ‘tag’ you as their marketing resource, or their jewelry salesperson, or their insurance agent, or their ‘your specialty here’ . How can you be a great and helpful connection to others? One consultant friend of mine believes that the best way to do this is to think of yourself as an archetype or word picture and share that with others so that they will remember you. When I met him, he introduced himself, and said a few words about his coaching practice. Then, he said that he was a court jester. He was the person that could make the king laugh and tell him the truth without getting his head chopped off. I always remembered that and I knew that if I ran across a particularly difficult executive that really needed to hear the truth, my friend would be the man that could handle that job.