Ever go to a business networking event and watch some idiot pressing business cards into other people’s hands, grinning insincerely, giving the elevator pitch, and moving on to the next victim? Eeeew!
Fortunately, there are much better ways to network. Bob Burg happens to be an expert on networking the right way, so let’s start with him. In his audio program, “Endless Referrals,” he describes a far superior approach:
- Observe the group and identify a few people you’d like to meet, who seem very well connected
- Focus on the quality and depth of the contacts, not on quantity
- Make contact, remember their name, and listen much more than you talk
- Find ways to do something nice for them right then and there—such as introduce them to someone else you’ve met where you feel they could help each other
- Follow up rapidly with a hand-written thank you that doesn’t hawk your products and services, and continue to follow up with nice little touches over time (for instance, sending news clippings that mention your new contact)
Eventually, that other person will begin to see you as a person who adds value in his or her life, demand to know what you do and how to help you, and refer prospects to you. Wow.
If that kind of approach feels scary, get a copy of Bob’s program. He breaks down every step and role plays it out.
A great tool with this kind of approach combines the power of online technology with the appeal of hand-written notes: SendOutCards is a service that can digitize your handwriting, create either a completely original and personal card or one from a template, and send the card or even a gift through physical mail, for not much more money and a lot more convenience than the old-fashioned method, and these cards have a lot of impact. You can learn more at http://www.BusinessByReferrals.net.
You can also take a more structured approach, such as joining a local chapter of Business Networking International (BNI), which gathers a team of non-competing businesses together to serve as referral agents for each other. BNI is a commitment, with required attendance at weekly meetings, reports back on how many referrals you gave and received, and their results. But for many people with a primarily local market, it’s possible to build an entire business around referrals from the network, and there’s a lot of safety built into the rigid structure. Most chapters will let you attend as a guest or substitute to check it out and see if it’s right. http://www.bni.com.
Marketing consultant, copywriter, and Green And Profitable syndicated columnist Shel Horowitz shows you how to “reach Green, socially conscious consumers with marketing that has THEM calling YOU.” He specializes in Green and ethical marketing strategies and materials for businesses and organizations. Excerpted with permission from his eighth book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet by Jay Conrad Levinson and Shel Horowitz (John Wiley & Sons, 2010). All rights reserved.