Although connecting with people in your industry and community is essential to growing your business, so-called networking events can be real time wasters for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Unless there’s an awesome speaker or some other exceptional attraction offered, just exchanging business cards with people you’ll never see again is the definition of unproductive.
You’d be better off spending the time on your business or with your family.
How often have you left a networking event with a pocket full of business cards of people who made no lasting impression on you? How many of those did you follow up? How much did any of them add to your bottom line? If the answer is “a lot” then ignore this blog and keep doing what you’re doing.
For the rest of us, networking events are generally ineffective because we don’t get a chance to share something of value with someone who can make our business better. We essentially make a quick sales pitch to someone who wants to sell us something . . . while both of us are on the lookout for more promising prospects.
The truth is, in most instances, the one or two people in the room who have the clout you may want to connect with are mobbed by everyone else in the room.
More important than making connections is having a product or service that is so outstanding that people want to meet you. A good, solid reputation for quality, innovation, and trustworthiness will give you top-of-mind awareness among decision makers in your industry and community.
If you want to give yourself a boost to go along with your great reputation, consider one of the following:
- Host an event. Invite people you want to connect with—clients, prospects, vendors, influencers—and control the room. A new product release, new office/store/facility, or some other company milestone are all good reasons to invite people to an exclusive event.
- Team up with a client or vendor to go to a golf outing or sporting event. Promise to bring a guest that would be advantageous for the client or vendor to meet and get the same assurance that he or she will bring someone beneficial to you.
- Reintroduce yourself to people you went to school with or worked with previously. You already have a relationship, even if it’s been dormant for a few years.
- Use social media to meet people who can help your business. Targeting possible connections on social media for a half an hour beats two to three hours of standing around a networking event with a handful of business cards and a bunch of strangers. And you don’t have to get dressed up.