21 Tips for Power Networking: When the Product is You

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21 Tips for Power Networking: When the Product is You

If you break into a cold sweat at the thought of walking into a business networking event as a complete stranger, you’re not alone.

Name-Tag-300x199Networking is essential to building and growing a business, especially for business-to-business (B2B) marketers who participate in professional associations and trade shows.

But it takes skill and experience to feel confident in a networking situation, and it takes careful planning to capitalize on the value of networking for lead generation.

Here’s what I’ve learned about personal marketing and successful networking at B2B events, and 21 tips you can use to make networking a powerful component of your smart marketing strategy.

Before, During, and After the Event: How to Network Well

When I started a marketing consulting and creative services business in Cleveland nearly 20 years ago, I was new to Northeast Ohio. So I began attending business networking events sponsored by regional advertising and marketing organizations to meet colleagues and vendors who might become clients, referral sources, or collaborators.

Participating in networking events where I didn’t know anyone forced me to step up and market myself. I soon discovered there were many things I could do before, during, and after an event to be a better networker.

Before the Event

1. Choose wisely. You want to be at meetings with people who will share your interests and value your capabilities. Study an organization’s website to see if the meeting topics relate to your expertise and its members are people that someone in your business should know.

2. Set your objectives. Decide the outcome you want from each event. For example, your goal might be to meet two prospects, identify a potential collaborator, check out a competitor, or evaluate opportunities the group offers for boosting your visibility and generating leads. Keep this goal in mind as you prepare to chat and circulate.

3. Scope out the attendees. If registration is online, review the LinkedIn, Facebook, or Evite guest list in advance to see who’s coming that you want to meet. If you can’t view the attendee list online, get to the event early and scan badges on the registration table to see who you know and who you want to know.

4. Prepare your pitch. Think about the one thing you want everyone you meet at this event to remember about you and your business. That’s your elevator pitch. Practice it until you have it down. Tailor your pitch to the organization if appropriate.

5. Dress for success. First impressions are everything. You need to look like the professional that you are. Invest in clothes and accessories that say, “I’m successful.”

During the Event

6. Get the lay of the land. Scan the room to see how the event flows (food, drinks, speaker, etc.) to determine where you want to be and where you want to sit.

7. Seek out the leaders. Find the president, event chair, or a board member and introduce yourself. Ask for help getting introduced. Saying “I’m new here” makes people want to reach out to you.

8. Study badges. It’s okay to look at someone’s badge and ask a question about it, especially if the attendee’s badge has a special ribbon or pin designating their involvement in the group.

9. Be friendly. Get in the drink line and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Approach someone who’s standing alone. They’ll be grateful to have someone to talk with and may end up being the best contact you meet.

10. Be curious. Ask an introductory question about a person’s company or title. “Tell me about [company name]. What is your role there?”

11. Be open. Everyone you meet could be someone you’ll want to know later. Be polite and friendly to everyone; they might become your vendor or client someday or talk about you to others.

12. Don’t sell too hard. Describe what you do and how it helps your customers, then back off.

13. Listen more than you speak. People want to talk about themselves. Focus on the person you’re conversing with, not on your sales pitch. Ask good questions and be a great listener.

14. Be prepared. Don’t fumble for a business card. Carry your business cards in your pocket or a case you can easily and smoothly reach. Make sure your cards have your current contact information.

15. Keep moving. Not every conversation should be a long one. To disengage from someone, politely excuse yourself by saying, “I just saw someone come in that I need to connect with. It was great meeting you.”

After the Event

16. Make notes about who you met and what they told you about themselves and their businesses. Add this information to your contact management system.

17. Give more than you take. Look for ways to send business to colleagues. See how you can help the person you just met, instead of expecting help to come your way.

18. Follow through. There’s no point in making a connection, then dropping it; you appear unreliable and shallow. Send a “nice to meet you” email, connect on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, and fulfill any other next-step promise you made, such as an offer to introduce your new contact to someone else or send information.

19. Be professional. Demonstrate excellence in all that you do. Don’t make typos in follow-up emails. Look like a professional in all your future interactions, especially written communication.

20. Say thank you. Thank colleagues for referrals and references and let them know what happened when they referred you. It’s an essential business courtesy.

21. Read the cues. If someone fails to respond to several polite efforts you make to get in touch with them after an event, they’re not interested in being part of your network. Move on.

A Final Tip

Business networking can be almost as nerve-wracking as public speaking, but the more events you attend, the better your skills will be. Take a deep breath as you enter the room and remember why you’re there. You have something valuable to offer. Be confident about it.

  • Jennifer Bauer

    Jean, I enjoy reading your posts. As I am getting out and promoting my business, I’ve attended a few networking events. They do get easier the more you attend. One thing that helped me relax is the thought that everyone came to this event to network and that each person wants to connect with someone. So, why not just start talking and see where it goes. I’ve found that having a candid conversation with someone is much more beneficial than the stiff rehearsed speech. Of course you need to get your intent across, but friendly banter goes a long way.

    January 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm
  • Carrlos Lyles

    I used these techniques at a private celebration party, modified them a little to help my own personal goals and i came out with plenty of good contacts. Your information is exactly what I need at this point in my life. Thank you for posting Marketing tips that actually work rather than the ones that do not work that they teach us in college. Thanks..

    February 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm
  • Kevin Willett

    Great tips. I really like number 1 it is very important to pick the right events.

    June 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm
  • Bill

    Great tips, thanks for posting!

    July 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm
  • Chantelle

    Great article. Few people maximise events. Also need to be careful as overselling yourself will put people off. Makke sure message centers around other person”s need. Balance important. @busy_BOO

    May 8, 2012 at 11:53 am
  • Bethany

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!! #12 and #13! I am soooo tired of going to networking events where people try to sell me. To me the objective of networking is to meet new people who could potential help you in the future or who you could help…thanks for the tips!

    May 25, 2012 at 9:45 am
  • John Gurnick

    Be interested not interesting is one item that always stays in my mind that seems to be good to keep in mind when meeting someone new….

    November 9, 2012 at 11:02 pm
  • Karen

    Thanks, Jeangianfagna. Jeffrey Levin mentioned your post on twitter. Great tips! I like 12 & 13 best.. 🙂
    Thank you

    February 14, 2013 at 11:47 am
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