As a marketing consultant networking is definitely one of the most useful tools in my marketing toolbox.
Going to networking meetings enables me to meet people face to face, to communicate and connect with people on a one to one. How long would it take to get to that level using an email or direct mail campaign? Just think it through - several emails, several follow up calls, an appointment eventually arranged, preparation for the appointment, time spent to attend. Quite a lengthy process considering I could invest two hours of time attending a good networking event and meet four or five people (or even more depending on the type of event) and start to build a relationship with them. Getting to know and understand their business and requirements in an informal environment and not in the typical seller/buyer situation.
A lot of business owners feel they cannot justify the time it takes out of their busy day to network however if you choose your event wisely and follow a few simple rules the time spent networking will be an investment.
Be genuine and sincere - there is nothing worse than someone who is "working" the room to find who they can sell to!
Give before you take - you are there to build relationships and make connections with people, listening is more important than talking. (think 80:20 rule)
Don't just stand with people you know - this defeats the object of being at the event. Whilst it is important to retain those existing relationships you should also be building new ones.
Exchange business cards - if you don't have a card with you people will wonder why you are there! Ensure that your business card is good quality - it is the impression you leave with people when you have gone. Does your business card convey the right message about you and your company?
Follow up after the event - make sure you send the people you have met an email shortly after the event. If there is any information you think might be helpful to them then pass that on, for example you might recommend another networking event or someone whose services might be of use to them.
Taking time out to network is taking the time to work on your business as opposed to in it. You are marketing yourself, your personal brand - if people like and respect you they will be happy to do business with you and recommend you to others.
There are plenty of great networking events in Haverhill , including thebestofhaverhill, Office Drinks, Coffee Means Business and Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. Just check out our events page for more details.