One of the most cost effective ways of generating leads and referrals. However it's important that you 'work' these opportunities in the correct way. The following techniques should make a great difference to your success rate at networking events.
In The Beginning
It's important to know exactly what you want out of a networking event, as well as why you're attending? Is it to refine your skills, build relationships, make sales or research the competition? Will you encourage people them to visit your website? Sign up for a workshop? Set up a time for a further meeting?
In fact, you may find you'll benefit most from networking when you have one intention and stick to it. That way you won't become sidetracked and instead can concentrate on the job in hand, for example, to build potential joint ventures.
Apart from yourself, these are second most important equipment for any networking event. However, don't just hand your business card out to all and sundry. In fact, until you know whether or not the person opposite fits a match to your needs, don't be tempted to exchange cards. No match, no card.
Also keep a pen handy, that way you can write something memorable about the person you've just met on the back of their business card before moving on i.e. what was discussed, their interests, needs etc. This can provide a great memory jog for after the event.
Never apologise for your business card. As long as it contains your correct contact details, then your business cards are performing. Remember, 'business cards do not maketh the man? Or woman.'
What will make more of an impression, your job title or what you actually do? Remember that with any product (and the product here is 'you') people want to know about the benefits not the features.
So instead of saying 'I'm a Financial Planner', try 'I help people take control of their finances'. Doesn't that immediately sound much more empowering and interesting?
Think about how you would introduce yourself, so that you a) tell people what you do, and b) include a perceived benefit.
However the best way to make an impression is to listen. Remember it's not about you, but them ? keep talking about your business and how great you are and you've lost them. However by taking a real interest in the person opposite and how your business can help them, well then you're well on the way to gaining a good contact and maybe even a client.
So what kind of things could you ask or talk about? Here are a few questions to get your started:
* How did you become involved in this kind of business?
* How do you see this event helping you in your business
* What marketing have you found most effective in your business or industry?
* What would a typical client say about you?
* What is your number one need at the moment?
* What business trends do you see affecting you right now (or next year)?
* How do you identify potential customers?
Then see if you can leave a potential contact with something more. For example, do you have a report you could take along, a copy of an article or press release about your business? Something different, something 'extra' that could make you stand out and differentiate you from the competition.
It's Not A Race
You don't have to meet everyone. Three to four productive discussions will yield far better results, long term, than nineteen 'grip and grins'. Believe me if you're intent on meeting as many people as possible it tends to give away two things, a) a sense of desperation, and that b) you're clearly at the event for one reason: to find work? And quickly!
Follow-up within 48 hours of making a contact, either by email, phone or letter. It displays your level of commitment, credibility and professionalism. Yes, we're all busy people, but honestly how long does it really take to write a quick email? How often have we met people who have promised to 'get in touch' and never do? Don't be one of these.
Andrew Ludlam is a client attraction expert, and Director of Maverick Marketing Solutions. If you're deadly serious about maximising the potential of your business, then I urge you to visit http://www.maverickmarketingltd.com and sign up for the monthly 'Maverick Marketing Solutions Newsletter'... where you'll also receive the FREE white paper "Six Magnetic Ways To Attract More Clients To Your Business In The Next 90 Days..!" (Value $37)
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