“What is the Brighton brand?” was the question posed by Will McInnes that started off a lively discussion at the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce lunch yesterday. Now that is what I call an interesting networking event.
What lures us to sign up for networking events – the speaker, the venue, the food, the company – all of the above? How many events are really worth our while – or as business owners do we simply throw ourselves into random networking and hope (like testing spaghetti is cooked by throwing it at the wall) that something will stick?
In light of my absence from blogging recently (to concentrate on getting total clarity about my “ideal client”) I have come to really understand the value of having a strategy for marketing both online and off. The following are some essential points to consider before you end up simply wasting your time by (not) working rather than networking:
Be authentic – Yes, my favourite topic, so not surprising that it made the no. 1 spot on the list. Before you sign up for any offline networking events or dive into online conversations get clear about why you are in business (and no, “for the money” is not the correct answer to this question). Take a look at the TED Talk by Simon Sinek – then start to think about your values, what inspires you to work for your business every day? See if you can you put your “why” down in writing – if possible in just one sentence.
Get clear about your “ideal client” – To make networking effective you need to know with whom you wish to do business, right? If not, how will you know where to find them, or even when you have found them? Networking is not just about meeting a whole host of your “ideal clients” directly. I think that to be an effective networker you need to think about what you can give before what you can get. That means connecting with people that you like, share values with, and would be happy to refer on to your own network. (See how important no. 1 is in the process now?)
Develop a strategy – That isn’t mean’t to sound cold blooded, it’s just sensible. If you don’t have a plan your efforts will be no more than a random approach. What would you like to get out of networking? Meeting your ideal clients, meeting potential joint venture partners/associates, getting known in your business community – either locally or online globally? (Getting out of the office, especially if you work from home, is a valid reason too. Together with enjoying the company of like-minded individuals over good food – since you can do that with your friends and family however, it probably won’t be your only motivation).
Where you do business will affect your choice of events to attend – either locally, regionally, nationally or with many businesses doing work online, globally. As will with whom you want to connect. For example, since getting clearer that my ideal client is likely to be dipping their toe into the waters of social media (and then immediately getting stuck) it makes sense to continue to network through this medium.
Here’s the interesting bit: since understanding that my ideal client is in fact the inspirational person I’ve immediately clicked with online, but before they had got clear about their own social media strategy – then Twitter is still a great place for me to hang out (phew!)
To summarise: Get clear about your “why”, figure out exactly who is your “ideal client”, and develop a strategy for connecting. Let the conversation begin…
Photo credit: Globalism Pictures