Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Most business owners will say the reason they join a networking group is to meet like-minded professionals, exchange business ideas and to give/receive referrals. But many times, business owners show up week after week, or month after month and simply "see what happens". I want you to be networking with intention. Meaning before you set foot into any networking event, you have a clearly defined goal.
REAL LIFE STORY
When I owned my photography business, I was preparing to go to a Chamber of Commerce Mixer one evening and sat down to make my goals and intentions for the event. First, I thought about what segment of my business could use more clients. I had recently lost a Youth Sports League as a client and noticed that the Manager of the local sports park would be in attendance. My first goal was to find and introduce myself to him and see if there were any opportunities for us to work together. Not only did I have a lot of connections with many of the county sports leagues, but I was also an involved parent of youth and high school sports athletes so I had plenty of connections to offer.
Second, I had been considering hiring a videographer to make a few promo videos for my website. Not only would I be able to use a videographer for my own business projects, but it was also a natural referral for my business clients. As luck would have it, there was a videographer on the list of attendees for that evening’s mixer.
Third, I made a goal of meeting at least two new members.
Armed with my networking intentions, I went to the mixer, met both the sports park Manager, the videographer and two new members. The next day, I sent a personal follow up e-mail to all 4 of my intentions and was able to set up two meetings (sports park Manager and videographer). I also ended up booking a large job for my Youth Sports business... turns out one of the new members I met was also an involved parent in his kid’s sports league and made an introduction. While I was unable to provide photography services to the sports park, I did get a better idea of how I could refer to them and I was also able to make a couple referrals to the videographer over the course of the year.
Sometimes the people you meet while networking may not own a business that would be considered a strategic referral partner. Never underestimate the power of building relationships with the leaders or influencers in your business community.
How do you set an intention?
It's important to value your time and make the most of it when you attend a networking event. After you RSVP, write down:
Who do you want to meet?
Which existing relationships do you want to nurture? How?
Is there anyone who will be in attendance that could be a referral partner?
Is there anyone who will be in attendance that does the same thing as you?
Is there someone who would make a great mentor for you or do you have the opportunity to be a mentor to someone else?
Can you help someone with an introduction?
After the event, do you have a follow-up plan for new people you met or people you haven’t seen in a while? If not, here are a few ideas to make sure you continue to grow the connections you have made:
Send a follow up message (text or video) the next day via text, e-mail or social media.
Connect on social media platforms. Start with LinkedIn but if they mention they use another platform such as Facebook or Instagram for their business, connect there as well.
Request a meeting or phone call if you want to continue a conversation or dive deeper into how your businesses can be good referral partners.
Offer an introduction that may be mutually beneficial to your new connection.
Remember, meeting other business owners may or may not result in direct sales. You network to share with others what you do, why you’re passionate about it and find out the same from them. By forming connections, you will become the go-to person friends, customers and clients ask for referrals. And when you start handing out referrals, it won't go unnoticed (or unrewarded).
Do NOT subscribe your new connections to your email list - it is illegal to send unsolicited messages. Instead, offer them the opportunity to enroll and tell them the benefit you believe they would receive based on your conversation.
Do not shy away from meeting others in your field - sometimes they can’t help a customer and will refer their overflow business to you! Trust me on this one.
You now have the tools to take action to network with intention. It takes a few extra minutes of your time but the reward will be worth it.