There are many business networking tips out there–but what if you only needed 3 simple steps to build your network? Let’s explore this together…
Networking: interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.
Insanity: Continuing to do the same thing, expecting different results.
I would posit that most of us practice insanity when it comes to business networking. Why? Because we have a broadly defined target audience, lack intentionality, and hold lofty expectations of others.
Business Networking Step #1: Define Your Target Audience
Why is it important to specifically define your audience?
First, it enables you to “speak their language.” Marketing experts say that the more specific your segmentation, the more relevant and compelling your value proposition can be.
Second, they will “speak your language.” Because clients and strategic partners will know exactly what your specialty is, they will know and understand the best contacts to connect you with.
Tip: In defining your audience, replace “anyone who needs _____” language with “consumers who are _____” phrases. Put a face on your target, literally and figuratively—they are easier to recognize that way.
Ultimately, you want to help prospects and referring parties narrow down their mental database to specific individuals they can send your way. It’s like a Google search. The more specific the search words, the more likely you’ll find exactly the answer you are looking for. Help people and give them the search words for their mental database.
By focusing, people will see you as the expert… and experts draw interest, are asked to speak to groups, invited to write articles and are offered referrals—all things that build your business. Put in context: if I need heart surgery, I’m not going to go online and search for a family practitioner and start calling just any generalist. I will focus on cardiac surgeons and then find one that has a lot of experience with 50-year-old women.
Business Networking Step #2: Determine Intention
Once you have defined your target audience, it’s time to move on to the next step. In order to develop an intentional business networking plan I recommend spending some time going through your current client list, noting how each client came to you. Was it through a strategic partner, existing client, personal network, or company advertising? For the first three, consider which sources are the most repeatable and therefore worthy of the greatest focus and attention. Then assess the highest and best use of your time to get in front of those individuals this week, this month or this quarter.
Business Networking Step #3: Hold Lofty Expectations
My final words of wisdom relate to having proper expectations as you go about your business development activities. Don’t fall into the trap of considering those in your circle of influence as somehow responsible for the growth of your client base. Not only is that not true, but since we each operate out of the center of our own universe, 99% of the time others do not even think about you at all unless their universe and your universe intersect. That is why you need a well-defined target that is easy to explain to help others identify your ideal client and why you need to intentionally network only with strategic partners who serve your target market or clients who comprise your target. It’s time to reclaim your sanity!
More About the Author:
Sue Peterson, CFA is a Managing Director at Cornerstone Advisors. Benefiting from nearly 30 years of financial services experience, Sue focuses her talents on helping high net worth women and executives in the Northwest. Her experience as both a financial professional, and a contemporary of those she serves, uniquely positions Sue to authentically help, educate, and guide clients with relevance and accuracy. Sue has also assumed many advisory roles in prominent nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in the Seattle area over the last 15 years, maintaining alignment and partnership within the communities she serves.
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