5 Tips to Fiercely Profitable Networking

I know, I specialize in content marketing. Why am I bringing up networking?

Last July, I started working with a coach that recommended in-person networking as a viable marketing technique for starting out VAs. I’ve done networking in the past but thought I’d save it for a last resort. After all, my business is “Virtual” so I shouldn’t need to network locally.

Corporate workWrong!

The truth is, a good marketing plan needs to have a variety of tactics – blogging, social media, AND networking all serve their place. A couple of months ago, I finally ventured out into some local networking groups. The results have been fantastic. Funny that my coach was right (coaches are like that). I have made some very promising connections and have signed on new clients already from my groups. Worthwhile, indeed.

Sometimes, though, networking takes time. Just like blogging and social media can take time. Networking isn’t about pushing what you do into someone’s face. It’s about relationships. Make connections. Get to know others with the goal of providing them with referrals. The more you do for others and learn about others, the more likely that they will trust you. Give THEN receive.

Here are 5 tips having a FIERCELY profitable networking experience:

  1. Arrive early. Showing up early at an event will give you the opportunity to talk to more people, make more connections and get comfortable with the environment. You have more options to choose where you want to sit and who you’d like to sit with. Sit with different people every time you go.
  2. Ask questions and LISTEN. Your first instinct may be to tell people everything about you so that they will know how great you are and will want to hire you on the spot. Resist this urge. This initial encounter is not the time for a sales pitch. In the spirit of building relationships, use this opportunity to ask questions. “What brings you to this event?”, “What are you hoping to get out of this group?” or “How long have you been coming to this group?” are great conversation starters. Follow up with questions about their business. “Tell me about your business.”, “What is a good referral for you?”, “what is your biggest challenge with your business?” are good questions to learn about the person. Take note of the answers. They may be revealing the very way that you can help them.
  3. Prepare an elevator pitch. Most groups will provide the opportunity for everyone to give a 30 second pitch about something they do. Be prepared. Respect the time limit of the group. In your pitch, give them your name, business name, website, what you specialize in, who is an ideal client for you, and what makes you different from others in your industry. If it’s a group that you attend often and you have gone through your pitch several times, you can deviate by talking about a special you’re offering, a program you are launching or just give a tip relating to something that you do. Don’t take yourself too seriously here. Relax and have fun with it!
  4. Get a card...from people you talk to. It’s great to gather up 50 business cards from one event but did you really talk to that many people? Focus on connecting with a few people each time. Have a real conversation. Don’t just take everyone’s card and slam them with email. Focus on those relationships. Talk to people. Get their card and make a few notes on the back about your conversation. This will be useful when you…
  5. Follow up. Send an email to those that you talked to at the event. I like to try to get these out within 2 business days so they remember who I am and our conversation. A fast way to do this is to create an email template that you can fill in the blanks on and customize based on your conversation. It will save you time from typing out the same information in each email. Again, show interest in something that they said. Offer them some more information on what you do, perhaps directing them to your free offer and getting them on your list (here’s where you add the online marketing piece). If you have a referral for them, pass that on. The goal is to offer value. Show that you listened and offer something that may help them.

iStock_000032584652SmallNetworking is all about helping.

Give more then you ever expect to receive and you will benefit more than you can imagine. Be willing to give it time. Building real relationships doesn’t happen overnight. Finally, be consistent. The people that are at the meetings on a regular basis are the ones that get more referrals.

Try these tips at your next (or first) networking event. Please share in the comments below how it goes or share any other tips you have found helpful for your networking.

Thanks for reading! Much success to you.