“The way of the world is meeting people through other people.” Robert Kerrigan
The second installment of the networking series will focus on WHERE we network. The short answer to this question is – everywhere. However, I caution those of you who offer your business services or drop your company name at every encounter you have with a new person…more on this later.
Let’s consider some places that are great for networking.
1. Local Chamber of Commerce or Civic related groups. Level one networking – best for generating awareness for you and your company. Everyone at this type of event is there for the same purpose – to meet others who may be interested in their business service or product. Upside: people in are generally open and welcoming to new individuals which makes it easy to make new contacts. Downside: many of these new contacts will not have a product or service you are interested in and it may be difficult to find real customers for you.
2. Charitable Organizations (can include alumni or any non-business, group or club). Level two networking – best for spreading awareness of you and getting referrals. I am an advocate of giving back/being active in your community, so this can accomplish two goals. One you can gain great personal satisfaction in getting involved in an organization that means a lot to you personally and two you can become exposed to incredible people in your community. However, I must warn you to proceed with caution. I have mentioned in several previous posts that it must be about you giving first, before you receive. If your sole purpose for getting involved in xyz group is to make business connections – people will very quickly sniff out your insincere intentions and this will most certainly backfire on you. The best way to proceed is to get involved and as people get to know you, opportunities will present themselves naturally. Upside: Giving back to the community is never a bad thing, great exposure to a diverse group of interesting people. Downside: No guarantees any business will ever result, if you force your business objectives in this setting it will turn people off and will definitely back fire on you.
3. Industry Associations. Level three networking – best for spreading awareness of you, your business, gaining referrals, leads and customers. Joining an industry association is the best way to network with potential contacts that can possibly do business with you. Where many individuals go wrong with industry associations is they join, go to a couple lunches a year and never do anything else. The thing about most industry associations, is unlike the Chamber events, most tend to be more closed in terms of the “cool kids” tend to stick together at lunches and events, this makes it a little intimidating for the new kids on the block. How do you overcome this? Get involved…join a committee. Upside: The contacts you meet have the highest probability of actually becoming a customer. Downside: Clique can be hard to break into.
We have identified the three levels of networking and three basic types of places/events you can go to for networking. All are important pieces to the networking puzzle, so make sure to work each type of event into your networking plan.
Next post…WHO should you be networking with?