Monday, February 18, 2008

A Starter's Guide to Business Networking

It's been a busy start to the year and as a result I've been neglecting my blog, for which I apologise. I will be looking to remedy that over the coming months and sharing with you a range of thoughts, tips and articles to help you network.

To start off with, I have just written the following tips for a marketing forum and would like to share it with you. It reiterates some points I've made in the past... but it never hurts to re-emphasise how important it is to have a strategic approach to your networking.

If there are particular areas you would like me to focus on in this blog, please do let me know. Your feedback is valuable.

For those of you who have said that you would like to come and see me speak, we are just confirming a couple of dates for public events and I will post them up here as soon as I can.


If you are new to networking, there are so many networks you can choose from. It makes life very tough. Many people simply join the network they are invited to, without a clear expectation of what they want from it. Here are three tips to make life a bit easier:

1 - What do you want to achieve?
Different networks provide different things, and it is important to be aware of what you're looking for from your network. Generally speaking, you can classify business networks into one of three main areas, although there will be overlap:

Profile Building - do you want to raise your profile in your local area, or globally through an online network such as Ecademy?

Brain Building - are you looking for peer group support, local knowledge, enhanced skills or greater understanding of your industry?

Referral Building - is your aim to develop a network of people who will champion your business and bring leads to the table?

Once you know what you want to achieve, you can look at the different networks available and ask yourself, and them, how strong they are in each of these areas. Then set clear goals from your membership that you can measure to see if it's working for you.

Online or offline?

With the growth of online networks, many people now ask whether these replace offline. A lot depends on what you want to achieve but the bottom line is NO!

Whether you connect with people through a facilitated network or through your own endeavours, nothing can replace personal contact. If you are going to build strong relationships with people, it's much better if you've seen the whites of their eyes! Online networks bring you closer together, but you still need to meet up wherever possible.

Of course, you can learn from each other and build an initial relationship online, but if you want people who will truly go the extra mile for you, you need that personal contact.

3 - What do you need to put in?
Networking is a proactive activity. It doesn't help to join a network and sit back waiting for the results.

Once you have clear goals from your networking, ask yourself what you need to do to achieve those goals. From attending events and preparing, to meeting fellow members regularly and having a clear idea of how they can help you, the focus you have on what your commitment is will make a big difference to the results you get from your network.

Please don't sign on the dotted line, hand over your cheque and sit back waiting for the benefits to come flooding in. You will be very disappointed with the results if you do, and so will your network.

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