Do you ever feel like you’re doing all the right things with networking, but you’re not getting results? I got an email recently from one entrepreneur who networks diligently, participating in a business leads group, local Chamber of Commerce meetings, and other events.
He writes: “I feel my presentation is adequately polished, I follow up promptly both on the phone and via email, mail out follow-up letters, etc. but I am not getting business from my efforts. What am I doing wrong?”
If you’re in this boat, one thing to consider is while your message may be dead on, you may be aiming at the wrong bulls-eye.
Sometimes in our haste to jump onto the networking bandwagon, we start looking for a group, any group, to network with. But, even if you think you might be doing everything right, and that’s still a big IF, your personal branding message may be reaching an unreceptive crowd. It’s almost as if you’re tuned into completely different wavelengths, and that could happen for any number of reasons:
1) They aren’t there to network. One group of people you might find at certain networking events are those who want to socialize and hang out with friends, rather than meet new people (this is more common than you think). On the other end of the spectrum are those who are there to sell, either to get job leads or referrals for their products and services (this is pretty common too). Yet if everyone is busy pushing their own agendas, they’re not going to be in the right frame of mind to learn about what you do. Your challenge is to find that group in the middle, the folks who are there to build lasting and supportive relationships.
2) They don’t reach the same buyers. Some people you meet may truly understand what networking is and are open to sharing your message, but their target audience may be in different industries, functional areas, or managerial levels from your target audience. That means they’ll be hard-pressed to make an effective introduction on your behalf because they won’t have access to the right people in the organization. The ideal networking partner has strong relationships and frequent interaction with the same types of people who would hire you.
3) They don’t have the credibility to recommend you. If I’m looking for a new phone system for my company, I’m probably not going to ask my dentist for a referral, as wonderful a guy as he is. Instead I’m likely to turn to someone who is involved in the telecommunications arena and can help me determine what to look for, what questions to ask, who the major companies are, etc. A productive lead will come from someone who knows enough about your capabilities to warm up the prospect and generate interest in meeting you.
Smart networking isn’t about putting in tons of hours, but about doing things that get results. If you’re getting out there but not attracting business opportunities, even with a strong message, you need to analyze where you’re spending your time and who you’re spending it with.
If you’re not sure who the right audience is for your message, an easy way to test is through social networking. For example, since Smart Networking was released in November, many of the comments I’ve gotten on my blog, on Facebook, and on Amazon have come from career coaches who’ve recommended the book to their clients. Prior to this, I always considered small business owners my main market. But armed with this new knowledge, I plan to seek out different networking events and perhaps even create special programs targeted to the career coaching field. Figuring this out offline would have taken a lot more time and a lot of trial and error.
If your networking efforts aren’t paying off, consider devoting some time to building up your online presence on a blog and on Facebook. Talk about what you do and see who is most receptive to your message. See who “gets” what you’re saying and starts to engage with you. Then find networking events and groups that attract that same audience to start building relationships in person.
When the right message reaches the right group of people, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can achieve whatever career or business goal you’ve set out for yourself.
Liz Lynch is founder of the Center for Networking Excellence and author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online (McGraw-Hill, 2008). She writes, speaks and consults to experienced professionals on how to seamlessly integrate social media and traditional networking to save time and accelerate results.