Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a while know that I’m not too keen on social media. Not as a marketing tool, anyway…. (I’m sure my family thinks I spend way too much time on Facebook….!) In fact, I consider it an absolute waste of time for most companies. Unless you already…
“Quite possibly the only person on LinkedIn who isn’t a results-oriented team player with excellent interpersonal skills”. It was a brilliant line. Several years ago, a guy called Gordon Rae posted it as his LinkedIn professional headline – the words that come under your name right at the top of your profile, and that appear…
Do any of the following sound familiar?
- Do you seize up when entering a room full of strangers?
- When people ask what you do, do you find it difficult to offer a coherent answer?
- Do you struggle when comes to articulating who your target clients are?
- Are your colleagues struggling to generate referrals for you?
Don’t worry if you said yes to any of the above, you are no different from most people. Networking is not a skill you simply pick up, it’s something you need to learn.
On 31st August, I participated in a radio discussion on WhosTheBossFM on what’s the most effective way to network when you are trying to market yourself to other businesses. Surely by actively talking to new contacts on Twitter and LinkedIn groups you can save yourself the tedious effort and time spent attending face-to-face networking meetings?
In fact, to be a successful networker, you need to combine both. And if you’re starting out with a new business, you really need to start with face-to-face first.
Do you go to networking meetings but find it all a waste of time?
- Are the meetings full of people trying to sell you stuff?
- Are the people in the room in the wrong business for you?
- Unsure what to say when people ask what you do?
- Do you find that nothing comes out of any of the people you meet?
Before you give up on it all, here are a few things you should know….
- Networking doesn’t have to mean "networking events". At its most basic level it can simply be a group of like-minded people getting together to discuss the day-to-day issues of running a business. For example, it can be an informal group of like minded friends. You don’t have to write a big cheque for a years membership.
- The real networking happens outside of networking events. If you meet someone you’d like to connect with, swap business cards and be sure to set a date to meet up for a coffee. And be patient! If you’ve only met once before, it may take several months till business follows. Make sure you follow up!
- There are networking meetings specific to every industry and every size of business. Ask yourself whether you are meeting with the right kind of people. If you’re a management consultant to large businesses, a group comprising of builders, plumbers and other tradesmen may not be right for you.
- Networking should online as well as offline. You could be continuing your conversation with the people you meet on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- To become a successful networker is a skill in itself. Sign up to a networking skills course (something we offer), where you can learn how to identify the right networking events, the right people to talk to, and how best to converse with people you’ve never met before.
I’ve just thrown yet another letter inviting me to a networking meeting in the bin.
Not a week goes by where I don’t get a phone call, an email or a client inviting me to join a networking group.
Several of the groups that have sent an invite assure me that I will be the group’s sole "social media consultant" thereby "locking out" my competitors. But here’s the thing, I don’t want to lock out my competitors, I want to work with them!
Take my industry for example. You can be a social media consultant, but you may specialise in either consumer or B2B, you may do training but not implementation, you may deal with small large businesses or you may be focused on the third sector, your expertise may focus on LinkedIn or it might be on business blogs.
With the recession continuing and bank loans ever harder to come by, even firms lacking a marketing or sales budget can attract new clients.
Straightened economic times may seem to constrain business opportunities – yet there are solutions around, and one is to get on LinkedIn. Not only is it (mostly) free but it enables you to make direct contact with your target audience. Described as the “Facebook for business people”, LinkedIn has over 100 million users in more than 200 countries, and it enables you to get introduced to new clients without having to make cold calls or advertise.
This guest blog post has been written by Clive Mulligan
This well-known story was sent to me by a friend recently and made me think about how you can get things in perspective about your ambitions and goals, have a read, its an interesting story;
Be completely clear about what you want – and what you’ll get from having it. Ask yourself, “What purpose does this goal serve?” This acts as a reality check. Is it for the greater good, or just your ego speaking? There’s nothing wrong in wanting an expensive sports car if you have a passion for cars. But if you want to show people that you can afford an expensive sports car, then this is not wise.
Over the last year, I have attended a number of networking meetings hosted by various organisations and have noticed a similar pattern with all of them in that I build better contacts at lunchtime meetings compared to early morning breakfast meetings.
I think there is a very good reason for this. Lunchtime meetings usually take up the best part of an afternoon and anyone who is willing to give up this amount of time is serious about networking. In contrast, the early morning meetings (where everything is over by 9) feel rushed. Everyone is in a hurry to get to work. No one has time to talk. But that is the wrong attitude. You can’t rush networking. You need time to talk to people.
Do you go to breakfast or lunchtime networking meetings? What works for you?
When you go to a networking meeting that has competitors in the room, how do you feel? Are you worried? Do you feel threatened?
Well you shouldn’t be!
Some networking groups promote the members benefit of being the only business in the room that fits a particular category. e.g. the sole graphic designer, the sole architect. But let’s be honest, how beneficial is that for your business?
I run an internet consultancy but rarely do I find two consultancies that do exactly the same thing, and I think it’s the similar case for most businesses. In fact, I often do business with competitors because I find there are gaps that we both fill for each other. One internet consultancy may be limited to large websites, another may be focused on low value websites, another may be focused on web programming but isn’t interested in design.
So when meeting competitors, remember (a) your skills might actually overlap (b) you can learn a lot from each other. e.g. new technologies, marketing techniques.