Business Development Strategies and Marketing Resources: Networking (Part 1)
Executing sound business development strategies and utilizing marketing resources efficiently speeds up company growth and are drivers of business success.
Marketing and business development strategies are the most time consuming and critical points of being independent. At one point or another, every executive will be challenged with keeping a consistent portfolio of clients. Some of the more common business and marketing resources are networking, referrals, online marketplaces and intermediaries. In this article, we focus on networking.
Even though referrals is the number one source of business for independent executives, I am starting with networking since it often leads to the referral sources. It is one of the more challenging and time-consuming activities, but in many cases it is necessary. Networking doesn’t necessarily mean going to event after event. It takes on many forms. The initial goal is getting in front of people and making new connections. Every person you meet is a connection, and you never know where it might lead to. Here’s a basic process and tips for networking.
- Choose Wisely – Choose events that either have a topic you are interested in, someone invited you who can introduce you around or is likely to attract client decision makers. The third is fairly obvious and can often be the least productive events without at least one of the first two.
- Ask Questions – If you haven’t read it in a while, pull out Stephen Covey’s, “7 Habits of Highly Successful People.” No one likes going to an event and being sold to. Some don’t even like going to an event and meeting people. They go for the speaker, the topic or because they are invited. Help put them at ease in a conversation. Ask questions and get to know them. Whether they are a potential referral source or a potential client, you should end up knowing far more about them than they know about you. It is very off-putting when I got to an event and meet someone who knows nothing more than what my company does, and I am handed a business card with the comment of, “If you ever need my services, please call me.” That is the extent of the conversation. You’d be surprised how often this happens.
- Events – A good rule of thumb a friend once gave me is, “If you connect with one person and schedule a follow-up meeting, it was worth going. If you connect with three people and schedule a follow-up meeting, leave the event because it doesn’t get any better than that.”
- The “One on Ones” – My friend jokes about the three but in general, it is a good number to use. For each person, you connect with and determine it is worth a follow up (hopefully for both of you), you will be scheduling time with each of them. Your goals of the follow-up area) Learn more about each other for the purpose of determining how you can assist and, b) to determine if there is anyone else in your networks you can connect each other to. You will likely end up with 1-3 introductions from each of those three meetings. It is no different than fundraising for those who are familiar with it. It is a game of hopscotch. You jump from one square to the other, see where it leads with the goal of ending up at the top of the ladder.
- Your Brand – I have discussed at length about your brand and what you are the expert at so I won’t go into it much more here. Stay consistent and stay focused.
- Never eat alone – Another friend had a rule when he was looking for work never to eat alone. He had every breakfast, lunch and dinner scheduled with someone he had just met or from his network. Basic math says that is 15 connections/reconnections a week. Using the LinkedIn math, how many people are each of those 15 then connected to and, as long as you communicated effectively, you just extended your network to.
- Follow up – If you say you will do something, get it done within a week. This is part of your brand.
- Connect – Use your marketing tools. Get connected to each person you meet whether you meet with them one-on-one or not. These are two basic ways to stay easily connected and updated (and vice versa). Thinks of these networks as your mailing list/marketing database.
- Send a LinkedIn invite (preferably with a customized message).
- Follow them on Twitter. If they don’t quickly follow you back, send an email follow up and request they follow you on Twitter along with something that might be of interest to them, i.e., An article you wrote or one you recently read and thought was interesting.
- Leveraging the Connection
- Follow and respond to updates on your connections– send a congratulations or use it as a reason to get together.
- They get updates on you. Even if they just see your name, you can stay top of mind.
- Social media is your new publisher. Whether you have your own website or not, get it out across all sites. Even though most of your connections may not be potential clients, people they are associated with may be. The more consistent you are with your brand, your messaging and your publishing the more you will stay top of mind for the right reasons.
- Stay In Touch – I cannot stress this enough. There are too many resources available to you not to stay in touch with people. Comment on something they posted, send them a congratulations and “let’s catch up” when they switch jobs, send them a message with an interesting article. Entire industries have been formed around news aggregation. I have yet to have someone say, “Please don’t share recent news or interesting articles with me.” Even though they may not read them, it helps to keep you top of mind.
As your career ebbs and flows, you may focus in some areas more than others. In the current age of technology where 80% of the U.S. population uses a second screen at least once a month, our attention spans are dwindling. If you want to stay top of mind, you will need to continue to work for it.
This is part one of a three-part series. Stay tuned for more on Marketing resources and Business Development Strategies for your interim executive business.