“It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.” This key phrase was ingrained in me by my father early on, and the older I get, the more true it is. In fact, I’m in my current position because of a contact I had 10 years ago. If you want a really successful business, then you need to have a great source of relevant connections in your network that you can call on when you need them. As a PR Specialist, one of the first things I tell my clients is to network, network, network. Join organizations and establish yourself on non-profit boards. Referrals and positive word-of-mouth is the best form of public relations there is. Plaid Swan is a perfect case in point for this that I often tell clients. Between the two partners, they are on 5 different non-profit boards. One board in particular has landed 2 of our largest current clients simply by asking someone to make an introduction, then meeting face-to-face over coffee to get to know one another to see if there’s a need someone can help fill.
In B2B, networking is imperative because people purchase products from friends and people they trust first. If Plaid Swan is looking for a new IT Service or to even fill a new position, we’re going to ask our professional contacts who they use and recommend vs. going through a phone book or even on Google. Many people feel uncomfortable going up to a stranger at an event, but it’s not just about networking with that certain individual directly. That person will already have a network you can tap into as well. So ask the right questions to find out if the person you are networking with knows who you want to know!
Don’t be Selfish
You need to give to your network the things you want to receive yourself. If you want more referrals, you should give more referrals. No one wants to work with someone who’s in it for themselves. The simplest way to get into the referral habit is to ask everyone you do business with about any issues or problems they need help with, and then refer the best person you know that may be able to help.
Networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great exchange, ask your conversation partner the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone, but others may prefer social networks like LinkedIn. It’s important to remember to touch base within 48 hours of meeting someone you’d like to develop a relationship with to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your new business contact remembers you.
Networking provides you with a great source of connections, and really opens the door to talk to highly influential people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily talk to or find. If you take the time to develop quality relationships over quantity, you will see your business gain quality customers as well. What are the best networking methods you like to utilize to attract new connections?
-Brittani Vanderweerd | PR Specialist
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