May 2, 2013
It clear to everyone that who you know and who knows you trumps what you know. However, while this statement about networking for business is a blinding glimpse of the obvious, many just don’t know how to actually go about doing it. How to build connections is not something taught in school. However, knowledge (“what you know”) is. As a consequence, many people network incorrectly or even avoid doing it at all. They think networking is about talking to as many people as possible and about collecting or giving away as many business cards as possible.
So let’s get down to the fundamentals about what is needed to effectively network for business.
It’s Not About You
Have an idea of what you want to know or find out before you show up for an event. Why are you there? When you meet people, you need to gather information about them. What line of business are they in? What are their problems? What are their unaddressed needs? Effective networkers don’t engage in idle chit-chat; it’s targeted.
If you want to be effective at networking, remember the people you meet need to know what you do, what you are good at, how you can help them. This is why your marketing message is so important. If they know the one thing you do well, they can remember that. If you attempt to impart ten different things about you, they won’t be able to recall any of it.
Professional networking leaves nothing to chance. The have prepared marketing messages. The objective is not to talk about you. It’s to gather information about them.
Your local university may offer a workshop on the art of conversation. If you are having problems developing your marketing message, you can hire a freelancer to help you develop and hone your words.
Networking Cards Versus Business Cards
At any networking event, there are the collectors of business cards. As the collector is reviewing his stack of cards from the one event, what is the one thing you want him to remember about you the next day?
Business cards have been around a very long time. A couple of years ago I began using networking cards, and I have gotten better results with them. Networking cards are simply a twist on the traditional business cards – same size with slightly different information geared towards marketing and memorability.
What’s the difference?
A business card announces who you are – your name, company, position, and contact information. Honestly, I have stacks upon stacks of business cards in my office. As I flip through them, there are few faces I can recall and I rarely remember anything about the person at all. Much of the time, I can’t even remember at what event I met the person.
When I was first heard of networking cards, I found few examples of what to print on one. There was lots of general information, but few specifics. The idea intrigued me and so I decided to try it. With the ability to print networking cards from your printer, it’s easy to try different approaches to see which one works best for you.
What’s a Networking Card Look Like?
The front of my card has my photo on it, so people can remember who I am. At first I had my reservations about it since I’ve only seen real estate agents do this. However, it has been useful. Several people have commented that it helped remember me and when I meet someone for lunch, they said it made it easy for them to spot me in the crowd.
Now the front of my card also has my email address, phone number, LinkedIn profile, Twitter Id, Facebook page, and blog.
A networking card tells people much more about you. There are a couple of different approaches to networking cards.
- On the front and under your name, you could have your personal branding statement or tagline. It’s what you want to be known for.
- The back of a networking card as a micro resume. It can list your accomplishments, highlight various aspects of your career, include extraordinary professional accomplishments, or even the industries you focus on. It makes you more memorable and more interesting to the recipient.
- The back of a networking card as a marketing tool. You can print your marketing message, or a 1 or 2 sentence description of the problems you solve or the desires you address.
- The back of the card as a presentation of an offer. Give people a reason to revisit your card with a free offer of a report or a newsletter.
- The back of the card as a visual micro resume. If you’re an author, you can put the covers of your books on the back or you could put some of your product designs there or even showcase your blog.
In today’s age of clear, short messages, the networking card is perfect for Twitter and Facebook enthusiasts who are networking for business. It forces you to pick out your best or most relevant points, and present them in a meaningful way.
If professional networking is about spreading the word about yourself then you name needs to pass the ink blot or sound bite test. If someone says “MacDonalds”, you’ll think of hamburgers; “Ford” and you’ll think of cars. If someone said your name to another, what would come to their mind immediately?
I’ve gotten more call backs months after meeting someone because of my networking card than my business card. When someone asks for my business card, I hand them my networking card but I make a point of telling them it’s a networking card, not a business card. Believe it or not, that alone makes one memorable and provokes conversation. However, a few business traditionalists won’t get it and I will get snubbed. That’s ok. I’d rather be snubbed and remembered for being different then forgotten because I’m just another face in the crowd without any distinction.
Filed under: Marketing & Sales