How many times have you got home from a networking event clutching a handful of business cards, only to shove them into your desk drawer and forget about them?
Maybe you see them every so often and remind yourself to follow up. Then too much time passes and you can’t remember who’s who. Then it’s so late that it’s embarrassing. At the same time, you feel too guilty to throw them away (you met these people, after all! You spoke to them!).
So the cards sit there mouldering. You add a few cards to the pile after each event, and the pile grows so large that it’s now far too intimidating to tackle. Maybe you connect on LinkedIn to ‘stay in touch’. But do you stay in touch? Does anything come from those connections?
If the connections you’re making through networking aren’t tangibly driving your business forward, then your ROI isn’t high enough to have made it worthwhile.
It’s that simple.
Want to make a change? The single most important differentiator is how you prepare for the event before it happens.
We’ve broken it down into four components:
(1) First, identify your networking goals for the next 12 months
Be specific and numeric about what you want to achieve, and why. Do you want to make ten new customers per month? Do you want to expand your sphere of influence, and go out for three monthly coffees with new connections? Do you want to make thirty connections on behalf of mutual contacts? Be clear about what you want to achieve. Then, break it down.
(2) Work out the math to achieve these goals
If you want to go out for three coffees per month with new connections, what will your conversion ratio be? I.e., to get three coffees, how many people will you need to ask? (Hint: it’s not three.) How many quality contacts do you normally make per event? How many events do you need to attend?
(3) Research the event itself ahead of time
If your goal is to create quality contacts, then you need to assume a level of brand affinity. You won’t attract new contacts whose values or goals are wildly different to yours. And so going to an event which these types of contacts won’t be attending will have a very low ROI. Remember, you don’t have to go to everything. Choose to only attend events which will bring you closer to your goal. (Unless you just want to have fun – but then, it’s not networking.)
(4) Follow up, follow up, follow up
If you don’t follow up, then no matter how amazing the contacts were that you made, the event was a waste of time. It’s that simple. Always view follow up as your responsibility. When you book the event in your calendar, set aside time the next day to follow up – and do so. (If you’re overwhelmed by the simple logistics of data entry, technology is your friend – this Harvard Business Review article walks you through card-reading Apps that do this for you.)
There’s no way around it. Taking the time to prepare before the event means the difference between failure and success.
Our RESULTS Members gain 24/7 access to our Webinar, “Before the Event: Prepping for Networking that Generates Leads” (available in video and audio-only content), plus our transcript, Summary and Member Workbook to help work through the learning. Join our waitlist so you’re the first to know when we re-open registration.