Network In The New Year

As another year has come and gone it is time reflect and improve upon what you did as a business person this past year and set new goals for 2018. These goals should include steps to learning new things to improve services or personal skills. Networking is an area that is easy to overlook. There are so many events out there – you can network till the cows come home, but are you being effective? Are you involved in groups or events where your referral sources or potential clients may also be? Your sales reach expands by having a well-established network of referral sources both professionally and personally.

Have you ever needed a plumber, electrician, or even a carpenter? When you are in a pinch and don’t know a service provider yourself, who do you ask or what do you do? For most people, the answer is your friends, family, colleagues or more often I see this on social media. How often do you look at Google Reviews or Yelp before buying? Having a solid network of referral sources will help to ensure that you are the person they recommend for the job when the time arises.

Let’s be honest: networking isn’t always at the top of our priority list. Networking is WORK and at times can be awkward, time consuming and usually the last thing you may want to do after you finish up work for the week. In today’s world, third party validation is more valuable than you telling others what you do. When someone else shouts your praises buyers listen.

Millennials have grown up with the internet being just a click away and a cell phone in their hand. Socialization, whether online or in person is more common and easier than ever before. You need to take the time to connect with others, be outspoken about your interests and career goals and build relationships with people you might not otherwise have even met.

There are several things you can do to help make your next networking event a success.

  • Break the ice. It can often be stressful and overwhelming to walk up to stranger and introduce yourself. Have a line ready such as, “What brings you to this event” or “What do you do?” Can help to break the ice and make conversation easier. Truly listen to what they are saying. The initial introduction isn’t the time to “Sell Your Services.” Get to know a bit more about the person and if you think you might be a fit – set up a time to get together for coffee or lunch.
  • Have a purpose. You want to avoid simply collecting business cards. Set a goal for yourself and find a networking event that meets that goal. Perhaps an association or nonprofit event will put you in touch with potential clients or business contacts.
  • Share your goals. This allows you to connect with others who share the same ideas or thoughts as you. Working together with those who share the same goals allows you to benefit from each other, expand your network and reach. I’m certain a colleague will know people you don’t. I belong to a networking group and when someone posts a LinkedIn article, they ask others in the group to share their post. This expands the reach and views of the post.
  • Follow through. If you find that you have clicked with someone at a social networking event be sure to get their contact information and follow up. It never hurts to mention something specific you enjoyed about your encounter with them. I have a process with my digital marketing program that adds these new contacts to my newsletter list. I then touch them once a month with our newsletter.

As you take time to set new goals for the New Year, be sure to set a goal to network in the right venues. Be where potential clients hang out. Gain new referral partners. People do business with those they know, like and trust. Let that person be you!

About the author: Autumn Edmiston is the CEO and owner of the Edmiston Group. The Edmiston Group is a multifaceted Pittsburgh based marketing consulting firm providing senior level marketing management services to businesses and non-profit organizations on a short or long term basis. Core areas of service are business development, marketing, strategic planning and public relations. The Edmiston Group has consistently delivered and implemented real-world, proven business marketing ideas and strategies for business.