The Benefits of Networking
Networking did not work for me. Why would referral networking work? This is a misconception that not a few people share. Most people think that after attending a networking event and exchanging business cards, that’s it. Few people understand that there is more work to it. The network does not cease the moment you shake hands and exchange business cards. Absolutely not. There is much work to be done from an initial encounter.
Some people go to a gathering or a conference, exchanging their business card and then proudly say that they have networked successfully. What is wrong here is that they do not realize that the initial encounter is just the beginning. You have to broaden the relationship by following up with your new contact to learn more about the person and his business, their goals and interests. You have to maintain close ties with established contacts by providing referrals, information and other benefits. The challenge here is how to cultivate and make this relationship strong and healthy. This is the essence of networking.
Networking is about establishing and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships, which brings you new connections with people, some of whom will become good customers. Networking also puts you in touch with other resources, such as industry experts, accountants, and lawyers, who can help your business in other ways. Hence, you must put a lot of effort to ensure that this network is nurtured and maintained.
A seasoned networker would know that in networking it requires a special skill. You need to have knowledge on the basics and you need to practice them regularly. I mean, you cannot just go out to the beach, rent a mask, fin, and oxygen tanks, then submerge yourself a little and claim that you are already a diver. It takes more than that. In the same manner that you just cannot go to a networking event unprepared and then come out a seasoned networker after the event.
If you are looking for networking events, you might want to understand first the different groups out there. Most of the time, conferences would have a networking time built into the program. You would notice that people you meet here tend to be younger. That is correct because the people who attend these gathering are out there to learn something new, so they tend to be younger. But if you go to a regular networking event or join a networking organization, you’ll see that the people you meet there are much older and more established people in their own businesses or profession.
If you ask me which is the best networking group, I would say the group whose membership is diverse. This means that it should have old and young members with a good balance of gender, a mixture of races and ethnicities, and a wide variety of profession and industries. This group would offer the best opportunities to get referrals from outside your immediate circle of colleagues.
Networking should be part of any business strategy. In fact, you should allot a budget for this because this is an investment that will have long term benefits. Costs associated to networking would be the travel costs, registration fees if attending a conference, membership fees if joining a group and of course, the cost of printing business card samples. Given this and the benefits that can be derived in the future, I guess the benefits outweigh the costs immensely.
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