Business Networking can be very time consuming. Especially if you do it via belonging to numerous networking organizations. These tend to meet weekly. Each takes not only the time of the group meetings, but also time to do one to one meetings with members of the group,without which not many referrals will be passed back & forth.
How do you prevent this from soaking up all your available marketing time? What I just described I call “networking broad”. You will meet all kinds of people in all kinds of professions who in turn have many different connections that may not even relate to their profession, but might relate to yours. This can be worthwhile and can help you build a large network of resources you can connect to people you’re trying to help (After all, helping each other is what networking is all about.). However, it can dig huge holes in your time budget.
I’m going to suggest that this broad networking can be seen as a way to find those individuals and groups with whom you should do “networking narrow”. What is your niche? Who are your target customers in that niche? Who sees these customers before you do as a natural part of their doing business? These are the people you want to develop deeper working relationships with. Your broad networking can serve two purposes. As I said, it can give you resources with which to help others. But just as importantly, it can help you find & identify those people with whom you should be “networking narrowly & deeply”. These are the people with whom you want to spend most of your time. Get to know them really well & let them know you really well. Focus your attention on how you can help them without seeking anything in return. If they are the right people, they will want to return the favor over time and they will be in a position to be able to do so. Spend most of your networking time with these people.
After the point at which you have had the basic “get to know each other” discussions, move on to very specific discussions about how you can best systematically help each other.
Here’s a fictional, but realistic example representative of my real world experience. Through broad networking I became acquainted with a videographer who doesn’t do photography. I’m a photographer who doesn’t do video. We each have customers who need what the other does. So we decided that when she scheduled a bunch of business people to come in to make 1 minute videos to promote their business, she invited me to set up to do head shots in her studio at the same time and offer those to her clients. This made it very convenient for those of her clients who needed an updated head shot. Conversely, when I got invited to photograph an event, I would ask the event planner whether she wanted video as well. Then I would introduce my friend, the videographer, to her. Thus we each find ways to share our clients with the other & work to have the trust built up with our clients transferred to our referral partner.
It is this kind of steady, ongoing, mutually beneficial working relationship that is the goal of business networking. Make sure that’s where you’re spending your time.
David Coblitz – The St. Louis Artographer ™