If you are like most independent professionals and small business owners in Santa Ana/Orange County region, you put a lot of hard work into marketing your business, getting your name out there and distributing your business cards wherever you go. You may even attend a weekly or monthly networking group or occasional business conference where people share leads. And like most people, you’re disappointed that your time and efforts aren’t generating a steady stream of new business.
The problem is that most people think that networking consists of telling as many people as possible what they do, and handing out as many business cards as they can. They waste the few precious moments they have with new and existing contacts by focusing on themselves.
The objective of networking is not to expound on your credentials. It’s not about you. Instead, spend the time you have with prospects by asking questions and collecting information about them. Show them that you have a genuine interest in their business and that you may have a solution to their business needs.
Here are some simple steps you can follow at your next networking event:
1. Don’t worry about how many business cards you will distribute. Instead, see how many cards you can collect from prospects and let them see you make notations on the back of their cards—it lets them know you’re interested in what they’re saying.
2. When you meet people, use the time to gather information from them about them, including what they specialize in, primary concerns about their business, problems they want solved and pending business needs.
3. Continue to expand your network. Whenever you make a contact, ask for referrals to other prospects. A good source for networking opportunities is the Business Alliance of Orange County (BAOC) in Tustin, www.businessallianceoc.net.
4. Once you’ve gathered all the information, enter it into your database or contact manager as soon as possible, preferably that same day, while the information is fresh in your mind. Try to make special notations about each one, like where you met.
5. People have short memories so practice building relationships. Follow-up after your initial contact and then stay in touch with your network on a regular basis.
6. Demonstrate the value of your expertise or products by sending prospects and clients an idea or suggestion they can use right away. You could present this in an article you’ve written, or one you’ve read. Your contact will then associate you with the problems you solve.
Although it does take time and dedication to develop new business, networking should be one of the core marketing tactics of your business. When you practice strategic networking, you will discover that it will lessen your reliance on costly and time consuming activities such as cold calling, telemarketing and advertising.