People in the web industry have often complained that they hate traditional marketing, hate cold calling, and dread using a sales team. Or themselves becoming the salesmen they despise. So what’s left that you can do to promote yourself in the business or career arena professionally. Well the only thing is networking. “Okay?!” you’re all gasping, “but networking is really bad worse than cold calling”. Well maybe you have it all wrong.
This is the basis for a Mini Talk I gave at the AWIA Port80 meeting on the 7 March 2007:
What is Networking?
Let’s look at what it’s not:
- It’s not network marketing (the likes of Amway, Omegatrend, etc, no pearls, diamonds, uplinks, downlinks and such)
- It’s not just about linking people together (aka linkedin, myspace etc)
- It’s not having a social drink with your mates
- And finally it’s not about the phoney, sleazy self-serving telfon suited predator “working the room”.
So what is Networking?
Networking is you investing time on a regular basis maintaining, helping or leveraging your contacts to achieve various business objectives.
Note I didn’t say your business objectives, more on this point later.
People will often comment that networking is too hard and takes to long to achieve any outcome.
Why bother with Networking
Why is networking so hard. I ’ll let you into a secret, it’s not hard at all, you just have to be disciplined.
You know, its not earth shattering. Sure you can ignore these techniques; sure you can continue on as you are. Nothing will change, you will still have your job, the Sun will still rise, the world will still be round. Will your partner still love you… hmmm maybe…maybe not.
So why use networking
- Business or career wise, its all about connecting with people, relationship building. You want to build these relationships quickly and effectively.
- Networking can do this faster than cold calling or email based marketing or the traditional methods.
- It doesn’t cost that much.
- People like to do business with people they know and have met in person and have gained some trust with.
- Networking stops you becoming isolated, and in an industry that promotes the isolated geek, that can’t but be a good thing.
- It can equally be applied to your business or your career.
- Finally if you’re not doing it, sorry the person next to you is and they are beating you to your slice of the pie.
How to Network
Okay, so we should be looking at this networking thing and how to do it, if its so good.
However be warned, Networking may need a shift in your perspective on the way you approach people and your contacts. Can you handle that?
In general networking is –
A way of seeing all the people and situations around you in terms of opportunities. Now these opportunities will present themselves every minute of the day all the time. You just have to be open to them.
There are a few key things you have to do for networking to work:
Networking is all about going to the right events, joining the right associations (professional associations, your local chamber of commerce, local business association, Rotary etc) such that you can make new client or professional contacts, to be exposed to new ideas and new business opportunities.
All you need to do is be open to discussing common problems and challenges. You may need to increase your knowledge and skills, in order to determine what’s happening in your industry, your clients industry and your community, business or otherwise. But trust me it’s not a big deal.
It’s about relationships
It’s about building on the business relationships and friendships that you already have.
You know about 6 degrees of separation; well in Perth, as we all know, it’s only 1 to 2 degrees of separation. You know the saying “It’s not about what you know but who you know”. Well it’s true. Now how many people do know?
For most people about 50 to 100. This makes up your core contacts list. But if you extended this list of contacts you will have well over 2000. Pity you’re not in contact with them all, eh. And so reality bites here. You know you can’t be in contact all the time with that many people.
But you can stay in contact with about 200 people on a regular (quarterly basis). Contact can be a short email, a phone call, or a postcard drop. Set aside time, at least 15 to 30 minutes a day to maintain your contacts. The work you do here will payoff. But an important part of this is to make the method of contact personal, don’t ever make it impersonal. No mass email drops, no email newsletters.
Generally you need to be friendly and approachable, and showing a genuine interest in people. Don’t try and fake it, it has to be the real thing. People will see through a false front.
When you make contact with people after a little while you need to ask that key question – “how can I help you over come your career or business problems?”
Don’t forget when you are introduced to a new contact; follow up with them later (within 48 hours). Don’t forget about them, or hope they will show up later at another meeting (they may not). Take the time and stay in contact with them. Care about them, if not alot, just a little.
You have to give before you get
Networking is all about giving before you receive anything. It’s all about paying it forward. It’s about people helping each other, to build each others business through the exchange of leads, referrals or just information. You do this by basically asking people what they need or want. And then helping them were you can.
If you want networking to work for you in the long term you have to be prepared to help others to be successful. You have to do this unconditionally. You have to build trust. If you aren’t prepared to do this, it’s not going to work for you. Plain and simple.
It comes back three fold
Generally there is a psychological requirement in people for them to return a favour. This desire to reciprocate will mean that over time people will feel the need to return your favours. It’s a little like growing seeds, you plant them now, some grow slow, and some grow fast. But the key is, like the resultant seedlings, you must nurture, or foster the relationship and stay in contact. Attend those meetings, events, and conferences; emailing those ideas, comment on their blogs, meet them for coffee or just give them a ring.
Now the final bit is all about matchmaking. For example, you know a contact needs a resource so you put them in contact with someone else you know who needs the work but is the idea resource. It’s all about matching up your contacts problems with each other to provide solutions. As you can now see in order to do this effectively you really need a diverse network of contacts, the broader the scope usually the better.
Yeap there are a number of key network secrets:
- Build relationships with other professionals who have a large client base, preferability not in the same industry.
- Pay it forward. Give before you receive.
- Be patient, like growing seeds, it can take time.
- Be proactive, help your contacts grow their business or career
- Spend more time with clients in the major spheres of influence than colleagues.
- Think outside the square.
- Only refer people that are experts or leaders in their field to your contacts. Remember what they do reflects back on you.
- Networking should not stop at events, consider volunteering, joining boards, public speaking etc.
- Ensure that the key people in your network of contacts remember and know who your are. And I’m not just talking about the web industry here either.
- Pay it forward, and don’t expect any return (yeah its repeated, remember it).
Focused Event Networking
When you are at an event there are few pointers that can always help you out:
- Prepare before you attend the event. Workout who may / will be there, and what your agenda is. It’s okay to have an agenda.
- You are NOT there to socialise with you mates down the pub.
- Smile when you enter the room, people like to engage with someone who is happy.
- Arrive early, if it 17:30 for a 18:00 start then get there at 17:30. You’ll get some early networking in. You also get to scan over the attendee list and see who is coming before they arrive.
- Don’t try and chat with every one in the room, go for quality no quantity.
- Bring your business cards. But only present them if you are asked, or you are interested in helping the person.
- Don’t go talk with the people you know and socialise with. Go talk with the strangers, make them welcome.
- If someone is standing alone, unwelcomed, act like the host, go talk to them.
- Don’t break into a group of two people talking, it maybe private. Similarly don’t break into a group of three or more than is very tightly bunched, again the body language is saying, this conversation is private. Respect that.
- Be very polite at all times with strangers, you are making a first impression.
- But be passionate, focused, people will not remember much about you, but make it a strong first impression.
- Be upbeat, friendly, smile, keep it light. Be laid back. Be sincere, if you can’t be sincere and really care about what you are doing. Maybe networking is not for you.
- If you forget someone’s name, don’t sweat it, just politely ask them again. You know – “Sorry, memory like a seive, what’s your name again.”
- While you are talking to people, even when you sake their hand, say their name, and try and associate it with something about them.
- After you have finished talking to a new contact and have their business card, write some details about them on the back. This will help you remember them later.
- Don’t sell, don’t push your business on them, find out what their problems are, so you can help them. Frankly, they don’t care about you as they have just met you.
- Have your drink in your left hand, with your name tag on the right, why? Try shaking hands with a beer in your right hand.
- Stay till the end of the event. You may find the speakers and the key people may go off to dinner etc, again that’s a chance for you to get to know them and them to get to know you better.
- If you make contact with people (that is get their contact details) ensure you re-establish contact with them in the next 48 hours. This is critical, it shows you care and understand their problems etc.
Okay that’s it, now no more bitchin’ about networking not working.