Maybe you went along to a couple of meetings and never got any leads? Well networking takes time as you develop relationships with other attendees before they feel confident to provide you with leads. You shouldn’t expect to get an immediate response from any networking meeting you attend. If you do end up with a business opportunity after only a few meetings, then you are lucky and the exception that proves the rule. You need to view networking as a marketing channel that needs a mid- to long-term commitment in order for you to get the most out of it.
The networking event was too formal and structured and put me off. The way some networking groups work, such as BNI, Business for Breakfast and BRX for example, is that the focus is very much on generating referrals – there are lock outs so that only one business sector can be represented and the agenda is very rigid so that the most is made out of the time spend together for a given group. This type of group can work really well if you are the type of business that is relatively easy to find opportunities for e.g. website designer, plumber, accountant, solicitor, etc. and/or you have a very good business network that you can leverage to generate referrals for other businesses.
The meeting was more like a social event. Quite the opposite of the above scenario and these type of events can work for some people who prefer this approach. The challenge here is to connect with those people that can be potential prospects or referral partners. Again, attending on a regular basis can help identify such connections as well as developing relationships over time. Ideally your networking should be a mix on this style, the above style and other groups that fit in between. This way you get to rub shoulders with different people that network in different ways. Likewise you should consider spreading your mix of networks throughout the day i.e. breakfast, lunch, afternoon and evenings; as well as weekly, fortnightly, monthly and ad hoc events.
My ideal client doesn’t attend networking meetings. This is an interesting one as I believe this stems from a view that you only do business with people in the room and that only “one man bands” turn up to networking meetings. The latter is probably true on the whole, but sometimes there are dedicated sector or skill specific groups that can attract the bigger businesses if this is your target audience. But let’s think about “6 degrees of separation” for a minute – this is the premise of LinkedIn that we are all no more than 6 connections away from anyone else on the planet – so there is a reasonable possibility that other attendees at a networking meeting, whilst not being a potential prospect, could be an ideal conduit to your target market as a referral partner; through their business connections. This can often be overlooked by people who network as they are just looking immediately at who they are facing and speaking to in the moment, not who they may be connected with!
I’ve attended numerous meetings and got nothing from them. Hmm – so what might the problem be here then? I think it’s “message“. Firstly do you know your target market, your USP and the benefits that your offering can provide a potential client? Secondly, can you articulate that in an effective and engaging way such that the “penny drops” with the listener. My experience is that many people can be very poor at this and their elevator pitch often needs some considerable work. Your message should be appropriate and relevant to your audience, particularly if you are talking to a prospect or referral partner – so that you make the salient points to motivate that person to think of potential opportunities for you.
You think networking is too expensive. Well take a look at a previous post on this topic.
So – all things considered – have you been a little hasty in deciding that networking isn’t for you? If any of the above points have had you re-think, then please give networking another chance and give it another go with a different view point – you may be surprised at the results!