Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Business Networking - Methods and Techniques of Professional Networking

Joining professional associations can be a very powerful tool for growing your business. It is in such forums that you meet more people and the more people you know, the more friends you have. These people you meet are consumers, their families, their friends, their suppliers and their customers and all people who might be interested in what you have to sell if they got to know you and your product or service. So, how do you start? 

The first and important step is to take some time and determine how this strategy fits into your overall business marketing strategy. Then pick the organizations that interest you and find out how to join. I recommend joining only one or two networking groups at a time as you want to be able to participate as fully as possible. Once you have identified exactly who you want to meet, find out where these people congregate.   Consider professionals associations, charitable organizations, social clubs, community groups, conferences and alumni associations, to name a few. 
It is going to take some effort and obviously getting known is not something that can be accomplished overnight. Networking can take many forms, including attending an event and volunteering on a committee.  The more creative you are in finding different networking opportunities, the less likely your competition will be there.   And by participating in these organizations, you also contribute to the well-being of your business community. In addition, some even offer financial benefits to members, such as discounts on trainings and other resources.
To get the most after joining these networking groups;
Make sure the target market of your business is represented in the group. If you are a business owner, joining an association filled with men and women who are happily employed by someone else will not be a good match for your needs in terms of building your business.
Set your intention of your outcome before you decide to join the group.  Are you joining to socialize, get industry-specific knowledge, meet other business people, or to build business relationships and make sales?  Having a clear goal and focus and evaluating those goals in terms of realistically achieving those in the group should factor into your decision-making process.
Acknowledge that it might take you a year or more in the right group to build the trust others need to have in order to do business with you.  Don't expect to walk into a group of people who do not know you and expect them to buy what you're selling or to enter into a joint venture with you.  They have to get to know, like, and respect you before they are interested in doing business with you.
Ensure that the groups you join don't have basically the same membership. If you belong to multiple groups where you meet with the same faces again and again at certain events and meetings, your time and money would probably be better spent diversifying your professional association memberships.

The benefits of networking can be great if you approach it with forethought and careful planning.


To Your Success!
Patrick
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