I have been in so many networking events during my career. I participated as attendee, keynote speaker, organizer, sponsor and exhibitor. The one main question that in many participants’ minds is – does networking really work? What is your return on your networking efforts and investments (in the long run and in the short run)?
Many of the SME business owners attend networking events, simply with one target in mind – to get clients. But as a matter of fact and most of the time, it doesn’t work the way they anticipated. As a result, I see many of them often give up before really determining what and why it didn’t work. Moreover, they think that if they move to a different group, they will achieve success. Wrong, I guarantee you that they are destined to repeat the same mistakes
The first step to discover why networking does not work for some people and do not get results is to determine what the problem is.
In a research I made for my new book ‘The Attention Switch’ and to understand the real reasons why networking might not work for some people, I found out the following basic reasons:
- Wrong way of networking;
- Wrong people to network with;
- Wrong group to network within.
I met some people who are blaming themselves and the fact that they do not have a ‘networking character’ (?). Do you want to know if you are the main problem check the following: compare between two different events or groups you regularly go to network and meet people (assuming you are doing it regularly for at least 6 months). Now, if you achieve more success of connecting with other people and getting clients from members of one group and not in the other group, this is clear evidence that the problem is not YOU. So stop blaming yourself and trying to escape from your ‘networking duty’.
What if the members of one group are in your target market or share with you your target market, while not the members of the other group? Is that a sufficient reason for your success in one group and not in the other?
What if one group is not the right place? Since the group is not organized or your competitor is already longer member of the group and he gets all the referral business from members of this group. It might be better to find yourself a different group. Trust me there are enough.
As you see, it might be not you. So do not start by blaming yourself.
But what if it really IS you? What if networking doesn’t bring you any results and doesn’t work for you no matter where you do it?
Just before you giving up, lets review 3 checks and balances I developed during the years to guide people to find out if they are doing it right or not:
1. Check: What do I promote?
You need to be consistent and creditable. Define for yourself clearly what is your service or product; what is the value you create for other people and how do you intend to help them solve a problem. You need to start promoting only one thing – one service or one product. Mentioning too many things in a meeting will confuse other people. Since they will not know what to pick up, they choose to pick up nothing. During the years, I found out that you need to avoid making people to try to figure stuff out or think too much because they just won’t.
This focus will help you be in the other person mind every time he thinks about this product or service. It will create clarity and immediate results.
2. Check: What is your target market?
You need to define for yourself who is your ultimate target market for your product or service. Sometimes when I ask people who is your target market? The answer is: everybody who needs our product. If that is your answer it is very clear you did not do enough preparation to define a specific target market. For networking purposes, this is one of the main points people fail in networking and connecting with other people.
Defining your target market will help others connect with you and send referrals your way. Remember – if you target market is everybody you will be referred nobody. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get a referral.
3. Check: What are your like-minded people?
Networking should be joyful, interesting, sharing event. You can only create such environment only when you define who are the like-minded people. Like-minded people are people who share with you more than one thing in common. I will advise you to look also at things as the way the dress, the way they speak, their interests, their hobbies etc. The narrow the group will be the easier it will be for you.
I know what you are saying now – yes sure, but if I join a network event how can I make sure that all the participants are going to be like minded people? First, you do not need all the participants to be like-minded like you. Some of them won’t and you can’t change it. You need to find the people within this group that are like-minded to you. The chances are that if these people are keep coming to this group networking events they are like-minded people. Otherwise, they will leave this group. Second, nobody prevent you from starting a new group of people like-minded as you are.
Balance: Conduct Periodical analysis
One of the interesting ideas I learned few years ago and start implementing in my business and train others to do the same is the need for regular periodical analysis on your return on your networking efforts.
Question yourself on regular basis if your checks are in place or you need to change or redefine any of them. Ask yourself if you’re getting a positive return on your networking investment. If not, figure out why immediately. Correct and take action.
One of the most strange excuses I heard recently from a senior person when I ask why they do not stop going to a specific event if it does not give them any return for the last 11 years they are members? Not even friendship and sincere relationship. He said that they do not stop since they paid a large sum of money for annual fee of the network. In a very short exercise I showed him that if they continue going to this event, the time and money they would be spending will be almost 3 times larger than the annual fee they are paying for this network. In short, you need to make it work or quit immediately.
Will you review all your company networking efforts? I suggest you do that ASAP in order to start getting real results for your company. I will always be happy to help!
What other great ideas you use to examine the return on your networking efforts?
I want you to discover, develop and define the real return on networking. Shall we do it together? Contact me to find out!