5 Tips for Better Networking in NAWBO

55% of business owners say they get over 70% of their new business from networking and referrals.  

It may be an overstatement to say that relationships are everything, but not a huge one. The people we spend time with largely determine the opportunities that are available to us. Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They are attached to people.

The ability to have face-to-face interactions can initiate or further key relationships.  Hence, building relationships provide business owners with greater ROI of both time and money.

In one sense it’s striking that the method that is (a) most personal, and (b) costs the least in out-of-pocket expenditures, is the top method of attracting new customers.  After all, you’d expect that by throwing money at the problem via expensive advertising, and through methods that scale to reach many, you’d get greater results.  

In May 2005, 83% of small businesses surveyed said customers learn about them through word of mouth.  In May 2014, 85% said referrals were the number one way of getting new customers.  The results were very consistent.

“Building a relationship” has always been the mantra in the sales environment.  It’s one of those buzzwords that consultant’s like to throw around without digging into the meat of actually how to do that.  It’s an ambiguous phrase that doesn’t TELL someone how to actually build a deeper, fruitful relationship.

You can attend networking events just about every day of the week somewhere in your town.  For the uninformed, they will put on a smile, collect as many business cards as they can, and send an email about who they are and what they offer.  These techniques will not generate the results they are hoping to receive.

1. The key to networking, however, is to stop networking.
Nobody wants to have a ‘networking conversation’.  They are hungry for real conversations and real relationships. It just has to be authentic, genuine and sincere. Let’s not look at someone’s name badge to decide if they are worth our time.  Put yourself in the most target-rich area and then just go with the flow and spend time with those you enjoy.

2. Set goals
Whether it's in the context of a NAWBO Luncheon, or on a monthly basis in your regular job, make sure your networking goals are specific and measurable. For example, I will spend time getting to know at least 3 business owners during the luncheon or social and then connect on LinkedIn the next day – including a ‘great to meet you’ message.

3. Add value  
Approach all your new connections with the philosophy of "How can I bring value for this person?" Know business they are in, what challenges they face, and make yourself memorable by listening and bringing something new and creative to the table.  

I also will invite them to be interviewed for my blog.  Together we come up with a topic and angle that supports both of our businesses while positioning them as an industry expert.  This is a win-win situation for both of us; I get great content for my blog and they get a quality link back to their website – very good for search engine optimization, plus we both get exposure to another audience of potential new customers.  

4. Follow up immediately and systematically
Use fool-proof methods to make sure you're being consistent. At events, keep your own business cards in your jacket's breast pocket, and put all the cards you receive into an envelope. Try to add a note on the card, if possible, to jog your memory about the topics of conversation.

Use social media to connect with the people you've met immediately afterwards and ideally send a quick thank you note, increasing your stickiness in their minds.

5. Regular attendance
Regular attendance each month to luncheons and socials leads to higher quality interactions with members and attendees.  People do business with people they know, like and trust.  Getting to know fellow NAWBO members deepens relationships and solidifies who you are and what you do in the minds of these professional business women.

Written by Kim Adamof, Owner of Raleigh Inbound Marketing and Social Media Marketing Raleigh Meetup.  Kim is a Marketing and Social Media Expert with more than 10 years of proven success in Sales, Marketing and Social Media. 

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