When I started Pixooma I had no idea what networking was. Fast forward several years and not only am I familiar with it and genuinely enjoy it, it has helped me to build my business in a wide variety of ways.
First, let’s deal with some regular misconceptions that you may have though:
It’s all about selling. No, it is not. Those that come to sell at networking events don’t succeed and are normally fleeting, they don’t ‘get it’, they don’t get what they want and they dismiss it as a waste of time. The clue is in the title, it is a ‘Network’ of people all trying to help each other and work together. It’s a collaborative meeting, not a sales seminar.
It’s a cost. No, it is an investment, just like any marketing. It is about promoting who you are, what your company does and how you can help. Remember though, this is not a sales pitch, it is simply an opportunity for you to engage in conversation and explain what you are all about, AND more importantly to allow others to do the same so you can get to know them better as well.
It’s all formal and insincere. Networking groups vary enormously, from the very informal coffee-and-chat style groups all the way to the more strict membership groups, but at all levels, it is all about getting to know people, not a collection of sales pitches.
It’s only worth attending if you are short of business. This is a seriously bad tactic to employ. If you only turn up when your order book looks a little thin then that sends the message to the other members of the group that you are only interested in participating when you can sell – which is not what it is all about. I book in my networking meetings into my calendar and arrange my other activities around them as I know how valuable it is to my business to continually attend.
Here, for what it’s worth here is my networking philosophy based on my experience and what has been demonstrated to me over the years:
Be Honest. Don’t feel that you need to claim to be an expert in everything, no-one is. Admit the things you can’t do, don’t like, and don’t understand. If you pretend to be something you are not, you will get caught out at some point
Be Nice. Don’t start conversations explaining why someone else, or their business is rubbish, that just makes you look embittered or threatened. If you can’t say something nice, then sometimes it is better to say nothing at all. You never know who the person you have just met knows, and attacking someone else’s business is a bad start if they are friends or confidants.
Be Patient. You can’t always judge who will become a customer, it sometimes takes months or even years before people you’ve networked with will ask you for a quote. This could be for a myriad of reasons: Perhaps it takes them a while to trust people; perhaps they have a trusted supplier already; maybe they just don’t need anything you can offer yet; maybe they just don’t like you. Some may never become clients, but you don’t know who they know, so by being honest and nice you may still become trustworthy to them and they may refer you instead, which is very powerful, and just as useful.
Be consistent. Regular attendance will allow people to remember who you are, what you do and what your business is. And this has to come first before they can like or trust you.
Educate, don’t berate. Demonstrate your experience and expertise, by imparting your knowledge without obligation or expectation of something in return. And don’t ram your services down someone’s throat the instant you meet them, let them get to know you and let them ask questions and learn about your business over time.
Reciprocate. Learn about their business, who they are, what they like (and dislike). As you get to know them you may get to like and trust them, so if you do make sure you help them by referring them. You don’t need to refer everyone you meet because you need to make sure that they are worth doing business with, otherwise, your referral reflects badly on you. But if you can demonstrate that you understand other businesses to the extent you can explain what they do and refer them, that has a positive effect on the person you are talking to as it proves you are not just there to tout for business.
NN coNNect and networking generally have enabled me to build Pixooma by developing relationships over time. This has led to a growth in customers, referrals and recommendations, suppliers and trusted partners. It has also provided a wealth of business advice from the presentations I’ve seen and from the other attendees generally, and I’ve also been given invaluable support both personally and professionally. Finally, and just as important, I have been able to contribute all of these elements back into the group as well, leading to a true business community.
There is a myriad of different groups available, all with differing styles, methods and costs and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but it is very likely you can find a group that is a strong fit for you.
Whatever group(s) you attend remember that the aim is to become part of a business community and help each other, so don’t go in with the mindset of ‘sell, sell, sell’ and scatter your business cards like confetti whilst giving a 10-minute pitch. That is a method that will fail far more often than it will succeed and will put off the majority of the other attendees. Happy networking!
Mark has over 20 years of experience within graphic design and his portfolio pretty much speaks for itself. He prides himself in the quality of work that he delivers, so much so that he offers a unique 100% guarantee that none of his competitors do. Add to this the fact that Pixooma have more 5 star reviews on Google than any other design agency, then you should certainly consider Mark for any of your design projects.