Whether you realize it or not, you are in the marketing business. We all are. Some of us are out there every day trying to market our company/organization to potential clients while others are doing their best to find a new job and are therefore marketing themselves to potential employers. Even the stay at home mom does a bit of self-marketing when she joins a new mom’s group in search of new friends.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as
the activity, and processes for creating, communicating,
delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers,
clients, partners, and society at large.
By definition, marketing is something that all of us do from time to time–whether we realize it or not.
As someone who does a lot of marketing, both for FabYOUlous Life and for Hope Lives Breast Cancer Support Center, I have found that networking is one of the most effective and valuable forms of marketing that one can engage in. In fact, I love network marketing and will look for any opportunity that I can get to participate in it. In a nutshell, networking simply means interacting with other people in order to exchange information and develop contacts. It is usually used as a strategy for furthering one’s career or promoting one’s business–but not always.
As much as I genuinely enjoy networking, I know that there are others who dread it. Perhaps they are simply more introverted and less comfortable putting themselves “out there” or maybe they’ve had a negative experience with previous networking attempts. Whatever the reasons, I believe wholeheartedly that networking (both on a professional and personal level) can be a valuable and enjoyable experience for anyone, simply by adhering to a few simple guidelines.
Whether you realize it or not, you are in the marketing business. We all are. Some of us are out there every day trying to market our company/oragainzation to potential clients while others are doing their best to find a new job and are therefore marketing themselves to potential employers. Even the stay at home mom does a bit of self-marketing when she joins a new mom’s group in search of new friends.
8 Tips for Fab-YOU-lously Successful Networking
1.) Don’t wait to network. One of the most valuable tips that I have learned over my years of networking is to start networking before you need to network. Don’t be that desperate girl with a panicked look on her face and a stack of resumes that she is forcing on everyone because she needs a job…yesterday. Instead,be the confident woman who has prospective employers calling her when they have an opening because they know her through her previous networking experiences and are familiar with her strengths and abilities because of their past positive interactions with her.
Networking when you have no ulterior motive other than to connect with people and build relationships will help you to earn a reputation for being generous, savvy and confident rather than self-serving and desperate.
2.) Have a plan. Every individual has strengths and value. Before you start networking, it is important that you are crystal clear on what exactly it is that you bring to the table. Take some time to pinpoint your talents, strengths and skill sets and then think about ways that you can use these assets to benefit others. Having these talking points fresh in your mind will help to alleviate any nervousness and awkward silences.
3.) Put your best foot forward. It might not be fair, but like it or not–people will make judgement about you based upon your appearance. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a supermodel (thank goodness!) nor does it mean that you need to wear designer labels. It does however mean that you should do your best to look appropriate for the situation. You want to present an image that conveys a positive message to others. You want people to regard you as someone that they can like and trust.
4.) Don’t hog the conversation. This drives me (and every other legitimate networker out there) CRAZY! Effective networking can only take place if there is an equal give and take among the networkers. DO NOT spend the entire time talking about yourself, your business, your qualifications etc. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason–listening is more important than talking. Let the person that you are networking with talk first. As they talk, listen for clues as to how you can serve them or possibly connect them to someone else who can.
5.) Be your FabYOUlous self. Don’t get caught up in the trap of trying to be something or someone that you’re not–it’s exhausting. If you can’t help the person that you are networking with, don’t say that you can. Simply be honest. Just because your business/service/offering isn’t a good fit for them doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends. Maybe they’ll be able to recommend you to someone else or maybe a time will come when you can be of service to them. It is always better to be yourself than to lead people to believe in a facade that doesn’t exist.
6.) Remember that EVERYONE has value. When networking, make it your goal to discover value in each person that you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest to their answers. Don’t assume that just because someone is “just” a janitor, they don’t have value. You never know what connections, knowledge or outside interests they may have. Every person has something amazing to offer. It just takes a willingness to seek it out, the perceptiveness to recognize it and enthusiasm to celebrate it.
7.) Put the pieces together. As you meet more and more people through your networking efforts, you will begin to see how different individuals might be beneficial to each other. This is when you can make a big impact by helping two people who might not otherwise meet, connect with each other. Make introductions and explain why you feel that they are a good fit. Maybe you know a doctor who is needing his office painted so you introduce him to your neighbor who is a paint contractor or perhaps you know the perfect pet sitter for your sister’s cockapoo when she goes out of town. Any beneficial connections that you help to forge will show others just how generous and helpful you are. This will, in turn, inspire them to return the favor to you when the time is appropriate.
8.) Follow through with follow up. One of the most important steps to effective networking is following up with the individuals that you connected with. Personally, I have a 24 hour rule. This means that I make it my goal to follow up with a hand written note, phone call or email within 24 hours of meeting someone new. This follow up is what shows others that you are genuine and conscientious. If you promised to introduce someone to a person you know, make sure that you do it. If you said that you’d forward them an article that you thought they’d find interesting, do it. It only takes a few minutes to show people that you are intentional and reliable. This little bit of effort will make them eager to recommend you, your business or your services when the time is appropriate.
Effective networking truly can open up a new world (both personally and professionally) to anyone looking to expand their sphere of influence. Keep these simple tips in mind and you’ll be a netwoking superstar in no time.