We’ve all been there—at a networking or business event, ready with our business cards in hand. It’s no secret that networking is an essential tool for business, but as most networking pros, including Dr. Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of BNI (Business Networking International) will tell you, meeting new people is only half the battle.
If you want a steady stream of referrals, you have to be the one that makes it happen and that means building a referral system. Part of building a referral system is determining where to network.
Since networking requires a significant amount of time, effort, and money, you want to be smart about it. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Be Selective Where you Network
Although you might have networked at the same places for years, take a minute to evaluate if you’re networking in the right places. You might be working harder than you need to. Before you register for an event make sure to ask yourself these two questions:
1. Will I reach my ideal clients at this event?
2. Will I connect with people who can introduce me to my ideal clients at this event?
2. Evaluate Networking Groups Before Joining
Most networking groups, like BNI, allow you to visit before you commit to joining. When visiting, find out how long the members have been a part of the group. If they have been members for a while, then there’s some stability. They likely established a level of trust and credibility with one another, too.
3. Be Strategic About Your Networking
If you decide to form your own group, identify professionals who serve the same target market that you do. When you are part of a group that serves the same target market, it makes passing referrals easy.
4. Measure your ROI
Before joining any group or association, ask the members if they are successful at generating sales through the group or association. You always want to surround yourself with successful people.
5. Continuously Evaluate if Your Networking is Working
As your business changes or the members change, evaluate whether or not that group is working for you. When my business expanded internationally, I identified groups that also had that international reach. Keeping in mind my strategic direction helped me to decide pretty quickly what groups I needed to let go of and which ones to join.
When you use these steps, you’ll pick the right networking groups, see a return on your investment, and attract more clients. When you also systematize your networking, watch as you keep your referral pipeline continuously filled.
For more information on how to systematize and monetize your marketing and message, join us at my Wake Up Profitable Intensive on April 24-25, 2014 in Michigan. To find out all about the Wake Up Profitable Intensive, register for this free Informational Teleseminar on Thursday, March 13, 2014.