I resent spending a lot of money on advertising. If you’re a past Landscape Design Lab client, you may have found me thanks to a postcard mailing that I did. Man, that mailing irritated me! A couple hundred bucks to design a really nice one, another couple hundred to have them printed, then another couple hundred for postage… pretty soon you’re talking about real money. And that was with me printing and affixing all my own labels. End result was a 2% rate of return, which is actually pretty awesome (they say) for direct mail. Another way of looking at that is a 98% failure rate is good.
Obviously you need to get your name out there. If you play well with others and like meeting people, networking can be a good way to grow your business. It can also be a way to come off looking like a clown. I made a number of mistakes, and I see other people making mistakes, and you know what? They’re pretty basic mistakes; I just hadn’t been warned. Here are 5 networking tips I’ve picked up.
- Don’t sell. Yes, we network to grow our businesses. However, a networking event is not a sales opportunity for you. It’s a chance to meet people who (hopefully) will later give you the opportunity to sell. It may be selling to them, or one of their clients, or their boss, but you’re not going to get that chance if you come on stronger than a drunk fifteen year old crashing a sorority party the first time you meet. The strength of networking is getting people to want to sell YOU.
- Become a regular. If you want people to know you and become part of your network, they need to see you. BNI is very strict about this in their attendance requirements because it’s an important way to build trust. The more I see you, the more I have a chance to learn about you. If you’re just a name in the chamber of commerce directory and I may have met you at that one mixer last summer – great, I know you as well as some guy in the yellow pages whose business name starts with “AAAAAA”.
- Be helpful. Again, it’s all about building trust. Sometimes you’ll meet someone and they mention a problem they’re having, and you know the answer. That’s a great way to get an in with them, but just be sure to email or call if you tell them you will. You can also show your commitment by volunteering on a committee; just be sure you have the time for it.
- Pick your groups wisely. Is the group in your ideal geographic area? Do they serve your market? And most importantly, do they share your values and goals? This last point is important. I’m in a BNI group now that is absolutely phenomenal and has a powerful home services team. We have a residential design-build firm, an interior designer with an amazing client list, and several other great professionals. They all want to be #1, so we all help push each other. If you want to be #1, and the majority of the people in your group are okay with #8 or #11 because it’s easier, you’re wasting time and money.
- Make networking a part of your routine. This is the hardest part by far for any busy professional, but the payoffs are huge. Relationships are built on what happens between events, so don’t just stick that stack of 30 cards in a drawer. If there are people you want in your network, stay in touch. See if you can get together for coffee and talk shop. Offer to introduce them to someone who could be of use to them. The important thing is to give them a reason to think of you before the next time you’re at a networking event together.
The bottom line is that there is no better way to get yourself out there than to get yourself out there!
One last tip: if you’re shy or unsure, find that one person (every crowd has one) who has a great personality and feels like it’s his or her responsibility to introduce everyone.
The 5 Simple Networking Tips by Landscape Design Lab, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.