Networking without a strategy? Does it matter?

hj_townsend
Director
The Excedia Group
Blogger
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When I first started my own business, I knew that the best way to win business was via networking. So, I joined my local CIPD committee (my professional body and supposedly the best way to meet HR or L&D managers with a budget – but that’s another story!) and signed up to a fortnightly, one professional only networking group. I also went to a few mix and mingle events.

Then I waited.

Waited for the new business that I had been promised would come my way, if I worked the room and remembered to follow up with people I had met.

And I waited…

In this time I was also blogging and tweeting, very prolifically – in fact some people would say a little too prolifically. I made sure that I was following and engaging with some potential legal and accountancy clients.

Then I waited.

And I waited…

Are you surprised that it took me five months before I won my first client via Twitter? It was also 6 months before I won my first client via the networking group. The CIPD link finally paid off when I realised I needed to be at the events rather than at the committee meetings!

So, what was my problem – what was I doing wrong?

I was ‘hoping’ that I would meet the right people when networking. I was, wait for it,  relying on hope as a strategy to win business via networking and social media. As it happens ,my experiments, particularly with the online networking, did start to really work and I was able to build a very healthy coaching practice on the back of these experiments.

Let me illustrate this with a recent conversation with a client of mine, who is an IFA. We had just planned and set up her campaign to find leads and prospects from the female business owner community. We explored where she was networking and had a conversation about ‘should I go to this women only networking club? It only has 10 members’.

At this point, we then made sure that the next six meetings were in her diary. We identified whom she would ask for introductions to – and these were both prospects and introducers, and how she would use this networking group to extend her reach and get her message out there. Suddenly, the ‘how’ this group would help her win new clients became clear and those 6 diary dates became ‘do not cancel’ in her diary…

What is in your networking strategy? Hope? Or something more tangible?

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