7 Networking Tips for Marketing Consultants
I’ve spoken about networking quite a bit on my podcast recently (to start, check out The Evolution of Networking and How It Can Benefit Your Business Today and Stop Networking and Start Focusing on Relationships That Matter) and frankly, it’s because no matter how often I talk about it, networking still seems to be difficult for consultants.
In my opinion, when done correctly, networking can be one of the most powerful strategic tactics for growing your marketing business. When I say this, however, I’m not implying that you should print off a bunch of business cards and pass them around mindlessly at every networking event that shows up on your calendar.
You must be intentional with your networking efforts and always remember: networking isn’t about selling, it’s about connecting with people, regardless if it’s in-person or through a digital platform.
Below are a few helpful tips on how to succeed in networking.
1. Do your research
If you’re going to an event, do your research as to who might be there. If you’re networking online, do your homework to learn more about a particular person and to figure out how to best approach them.
Remember, they may not know or care who you are, so it’s very important that you not only know but clearly articulate how you can provide value to them.
2. Define your goals
Don’t network blindly. Whether you’re networking in person or online, have a purpose behind it. Your research and knowledge of your target audience should help you dictate what those goals are. Plus, the more concrete you can be, the more you can decide whether the networking efforts were a success for you or not.
Tie your networking goals to your business objectives so that you can accurately measure your efforts.
Let’s face it, networking is a commitment. It’s not something you can dabble in every once in a while. It’s something you must take seriously and must practice consistently. I’m not going to say “practice makes perfect” here because you’ll always be thrown curve balls, but it certainly does help.
And to piggyback off that, you’ve got to commit to being uncomfortable, because more often than not, networking will not be your comfort zone, and you just have to be OK with that.
4. Focus on your target audience
To avoid wasting time, know the types of people (or ideally the exact person) you want to interact with and why. The reason you interact with them should benefit your business. You’ve got to know who you can help and who you can provide value to, which should help to narrow down the list.
In addition to being focused on the people you’d like to meet, keep in mind people may also want to meet you, so be sure to take the time to meet with them as well. Networking isn’t a one-way street.
For online networking, it’s important that you have an online connection plan to reach out to these people. Don’t just request to connect with people on LinkedIn without providing any reason or rationale. It will get you nowhere. The research you’ve done should help you put this plan in place to reach these people in an effective manner.
5. Be engaged
Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to actually care about what the person you’re talking to is saying. Have you ever been talking to somebody new and all they do is talk about themselves? It’s so boring and can quickly make the person they’re talking to want to run in the opposite direction.
Don’t be that guy.
Ask questions. Genuinely respond. Be engaged.
Want to know the fastest way to lose somebody you’ve just met? Pitch them. Networking is the time to make connections. It is not the time to sell. Build the relationship first and build trust. That should be your main focus.
6. Follow up
Networking is just the beginning. The real work really begins with your follow up plan. If you’ve provided value to the people you’ve targeted, the follow-up really shouldn’t be that difficult. In fact, if you did your job correctly, they should want to hear from you.
Don’t drop the ball in this phase. They still may not be ready to work with you, but nurturing leads is part of the game so take the time to do so. Even in the follow-up, it’s important to not jump straight into a sales pitch. Continue to provide value and the pitch will fit into the conversation naturally.
7. Link building as modern marketing
Link building is the new networking and remains an important factor in terms of your site showing up when people search for the things that you want them to find you for online.
You’ve got to create something that people want to link to. That’s why I say it’s the new networking because people want to share great content. They want to share it with their audiences, networks, and visitors.
If you’re a local business, one of the things you’ll want to do is start networking with other local businesses, particularly those that could be potential strategic partners.
Think about also building an online platform with them. If there’s somebody you work with, buy from, or network with that’s local, think about ways that you could link to and from each other in an effort to build up your links further.
Networking is constantly changing so it’s important that you don’t get rusty with it. Be creative. You don’t need to go to your standard networking happy hour to be successful with this tactic. With the digital world, there are a plethora of ways to interact with people.
You just have to make the effort to do it.