I think everyone's viewed it through both lenses before. Almost all of us business owners have attended formal networking events where the only thing you were thinking was, “what the hell am I doing here”. The other times, we've left events where we were excited at the possibilities of new leads and potential business partnerships. It can be hit or miss.
I wrote a previous article on why networking events are worthless. I'm not here to pee on everyone's networking parade, nor am I against networking……I attend formal and non-formal events almost every week. What I'm saying is that alot of the time, we're not doing it effectively. Either we approach networking the wrong way or we are networking with the wrong people.
Below are 5 times that you're wasting your time networking, at least in my opinion.
You network because you're scared of selling
Everyone hates cold calling. Heck, most of us hate warm calling. If only people would just randomly hand us money and beg us to sign a long term contract, life would be grand. If you're not into selling (you better go find someone who is), networking can be a safe haven of soft talk and non-intimidating interactions with “friends”. That's alot easier then walking into a business and trying to pitch your value to a skeptical business owner. While networking is good, don't use it as an excuse not to actively go out and sell to potential customers.
You network because it's comfortable
Just like above, don't use networking as an excuse to not do the things you really know you should be doing. At many networking events, most of the people are looking to get business, they aren't necessarily seeking to buy anything. Alot of sellers and not enough buyers. They may not be your target market, you're ideal customer is at work, at there business…..probably listening to a pitch from one of your competitors while you're having tea and strumpets with other business owners just like you, “brainstorming” on how to find your ideal customer. Networking is great, just don't use it as a crutch.
You spend all of your time networking
Are you a professional networker? If your business is booming, that's awesome, keep at it. If after several months, there's nothing, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your marketing plan. Networking is the offline version of Social Media, it can be highly effective, but can also be a huge time suck if left unchecked. Just like in your personal life, make sure you have balance in your business life. Networking can be fun if you meet the right bunch of people, but don't let it distract you from working on your business.
You networking isn't really networking
I've attended networking events where most of the conversations revolved around shopping, family, vacations…..everything except business. If you attend networking events like this, don't fool yourself into thinking your networking for your business, you're socializing with friends. People will argue that this is networking……you're building friendships and relationships. If your marketing plan is to get business by osmosis, then this type of socializing is great…..it's just not effective.
Your ideal clients aren't networking, They're At work
Be honest about this one. Are the people you're networking with fit your ideal customer profile, or are they like you, looking to drum up more business? Most of our ideal clients are too busy to network, they are running businesses and have little time to spend on a Tuesday afternoon at the local cafe. While your networking circle may be able to refer you to your ideal client, you still need to go to the source and get them yourself if you want control over your business.
How Effective Is Your Networking?
Networking should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, its not a marketing strategy in of itself. It also shouldn't replace a sales strategy for your business. Put it this way, the guy who walks up to a girl and asks for a date will get rejected several times…..but will eventually land a date. The guy who's afraid to ask for a date will hang around groups of friends…..hoping one of those cute girls will basically “ask him out” so he doesn't have to. Sometimes it works, but you could be waiting a very long time to get asked out.
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