5-Step Strategy to Networking With A Purpose
When I first became an entrepreneur, I was excited and I attended every networking event that I knew of or heard about. A happy hour mixer on Tuesday, a charity dinner on Thursday, or a women’s brunch on Saturday. You name it, I was there.
I met hundreds of people but none of them turned out to be my clients.
I handed out and received countless business cards, many of which ended up in the trash.
I spent a lot of time and money going to events that didn’t yield any measurable results. I was having fun socializing, but I was missing the mark networking.
I was networking without a purpose.
As an entrepreneur, your time equals money. You can’t waste any of your valuable time on activities that will not produce measurable results.
So here are my tips for creating a strategy to network with a purpose.
1. Categorize the event
Every networking event can be categorized as either professional development or business marketing.
Professional development events involve activities that will help you grow and develop as an entrepreneur. These types of events will teach you something. You should leave the event with new information or a new skill. For example, a luncheon that discusses the benefits of government contracting or a workshop that covers how to design effective marketing materials.
On the other hand, business marketing events are opportunities for you to gain exposure and market your services to your ideal clients. You should be prepared to pitch your business and hand out business cards at these types of events. For example, a conference for insurance carriers or a mixer for attorneys.
2. Pay attention to who is hosting the event
Every networking event is hosted by a person or an organization. Usually, you can identify who is hosting the event by reading the top or bottom of the invite. If you are unfamiliar with the host, Google them! Find out what their organization is about. While I wish that I can say that people host events because they simply want to give back to the community, that’s probably not the case. There is always an underlying motive for the event host. Are they hosting the event to make money, increase their exposure, sell a product/service, ask for a charitable donation, or increase their organization’s membership? It’s up to you to figure out what’s really going on.
3. Identify who will attend the event
Each networking event targets a specific group of people and you need to identify who the host of the event is targeting. Doing this very important step will help you to determine if you need to attend the event. Rule of thumb: if your target market will be there, you should be there too. For example, if there is an event happening for pregnant women and you are a lactation specialist, you should attend the event for business marketing purposes.
4. Determine your goal for attending the event
Before attending the event set one or two specific goals that you would like to attain as a result of going. If the event is for professional development, your goals should relate directly to what you hope to learn. The event should teach you something or add to your current knowledge. For example, your goal for attending the event would be to learn how to “XYZ” or to understand what “ABC” means.
Your goal for attending a business marketing event should be associated with growing your business. If your target client will be attending the event (which they should be), your goal could be to hand out business cards and pitch your services to as many people as possible.
5. Weigh the costs
Many networking events are free, but there is quite a few that requires a registration fee. If there is a fee involved with attending the event, you need to weigh the costs of attaining your goals versus the monetary costs of attending the event. For example, if the registration cost is $125 but there is a possibility that you will be able to pitch your services to 300 people, it’s well worth the registration fee. Or it may be worth the expense to attend a workshop to learn how to design marketing materials for $50 compared to hiring a graphic designer for $500.
Deciding to attend a networking event should require some thought and a basic strategy. The next time that you come across an event that sparks your interest, take the time go over the 5 steps that I listed above before RSVPing.
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