Successful networking is dependent upon your approach and your motives. While some people may walk in the room with the intention of promoting their business products and services, that is not necessarily the best way to go about it. According to an article from Forbes, a better approach is to ask yourself how you can be of service to the people in the room. Identify how your business and services can benefit others and help them reach their goals rather than your goals. Listen to them share about their mission, vision, and goals. You can then identify areas in which your business may benefit them. Think of ways in which you can help them, without focusing on personal gain. The article holds that the most successful networkers give more than they receive. Others are focused on the “WIIFM,” “what’s in it for me?” To break down barriers ask yourself how you can be of service to others. Prior to starting my company, I began networking early. To learn about my competition, my industry, trends, industry norms, idea shopping, etc. I met a wonderful, seasoned marketer in Denver who gave me excellent advice for using Nextdoor. Rather than spamming groups with promotional posts that turn people off, offer free training. You can help others by offering training to the community, and at the same time build professional relationships that can turn into leads in the future. Spending one hour of your time working for free by teaching others about your business skills, to help the community, is well worth it.
Strasser Writing and Marketing spends a great deal of time talking to our clients and fellow marketers. While I am not receiving any compensation for my time, I am building strong relationships. This benefited me one time when a graphic designer from California threatened to take a client from me on a logo project. While he may have had stronger technical skills when it came to graphic design, he did not listen to my client’s needs, he missed the target and the fact that I had spent hours meeting with my client, getting to know her goals, her story, and taught myself about her business, I prevailed in maintaining my client when my competition tried to slide in and snatch her from under me. It is not because I am better than him, it is because I listened to her, got to know her, and had formed a genuine relationship and connection. I put her needs over mine, and it pays off eventually. Patience is a virtue.
In order to be approachable, you must realize that you are equal to everyone else in the room, and they are also equal to you. Try to enjoy talking to others. Show interest in them and their businesses. Focus on others rather than yourself. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Have a plan before you enter the room. Clearly define your strengths, talents, and what you bring to the table. Draft out some talking points you would like to share with others beforehand. It is especially essential to remember that no one is unimportant. Do not be quick to dismiss people who may seem different. The Denver community is a tight-knit place, and you never know when your path will cross with another in the future. There are always opportunities to collaborate, and diversity is a rich tapestry that gives the community life and meaning. Share your business card, save theirs and organize it in a book, and even take notes for yourself to remember them and information you feel is relevant.
Clearly demonstrate your passion for what you do and look for others that share the same passion. Create connections with others in the same industry. Do not look at them as competition but as equals who share the same passion. There are always opportunities to collaborate and share resources. While you may be in the same industry, you, and those you might normally view as competitors may represent different niches. This leaves the door open for outsourcing some projects to them, and vice versa.
Network early. Begin long before you desperately need it. You do not want to be in a situation where you are panicking at the last minute, trying to force connections and save your business. Follow through. If you promised someone you would email them or send them a document, make a note to yourself to do it, and do it. The next week you send a follow-up email that says that you were pleased to meet them and looking forward to working together in the future. This keeps you fresh in their mind and gives them your contact information for the future. This opens the door for many opportunities. If you have social media, you can ask them to be your friend, to follow you, if they would like to subscribe to your distribution lists, etc. If they say no thank you, then respect that, but chances are they will be happy to stay connected. LinkedIn is an excellent platform for professional connections and networking. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, I highly recommend it. It is a way to show off your resume and experience without pushing it on others. They can view your profile and get to know you. You can message them, share the work you are producing, and show off your professional skills without seeming pushy.
Finally, be a bridge and connect others to one another. If you have clients that need a project that is outside of your scope of work, you can refer them to one of your connections and they will be appreciative. Introduce your business friends to one another. Bridging these connections benefits the industry and community as a whole and shows that you are supportive. Your connections will appreciate it and begin doing the same for you. It will generate new leads and clients. Of course, you do not want to lose your killer instinct and drive to be successful, but you also do not want to seem overly competitive, greedy, and selfish. People can sense that a mile away and it is a turn-off. It does not lead to inclusivity, community, and clients hire companies that put the client’s needs above their own. You get what you give, and this applies even to networking.