People do business with people they know. So, how do you get to know the right people that can hire or team with your firm? As an introvert who would rather spend time designing or writing, networking doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve had to push myself beyond my comfort zone. By following the four networking tips below, I have built an effective network and you can too.
1. Get Involved Where Your Clients Gather
Focus your time where your target clients gather. Since LecoursDesign’s niche is the A/E/C industry, I’ve found SMPS, AIA, and USGBC to be fertile ground for connecting with potential clients. But it’s not enough to simply join an organization or show up for meetings. In fact, meaningless small talk often pervades big monthly meetings. The place where meaningful relationships are built is working side-by-side on a committee or serving on the Board of Directors. Embed yourself where clients can get to know you on a personal level.
2. Volunteer Where You Are Passionate
Give your time to causes that you are passionate about. Even better if you can donate some expertise where they can be noticed by a potential client. Let me give you an example. I’m passionate about sustainability so serving as Marketing Chair of the USGBC-SD Chapter allows me to demonstrate my expertise to potential clients. For example, I designed the USGBC name tags above. Volunteering also allows you to practice new skills that a paying client might find too risky (you rarely get fired volunteering). When I started with USGBC, I knew very little about email marketing. The lessons I learned in managing e-mail blasts for USGBC directly informed the free monthly advice I send out monthly via email.
3. Obey the Law (of Reciprocity)
Give and you will get. The universe supports Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. According to Michael Port in Book Yourself Solid, share what you know, whom you know, and how you feel. You’ll be amazed with what comes back to you.
With networking, it’s more important to be interested, than interesting. It’s a myth that the most charismatic person in the room is the most effective networker. That guy (you know the type), the most interesting man in the world from the Dos Equis commercials, is usually perceived as a slick, self-interested, charlatan. When meeting someone for the first time, or fifth time, be interested in them. Ask about what they are working on, what problems they are facing, fun things they are doing outside of work, or about their family. Take it upon yourself to move quickly out of small talk land, and into genuine conversation. Show up to your event with good questions in your back pocket, and you’ll leave with meaningful contacts’ business cards in your front pocket.
4. Position Yourself as an Expert
I’ve found the best way get in front of my target audience as an expert is through public speaking. When I speak on Branding or Presentations at conferences or workshops, it always amazes me how many people come up afterward to give me their business card. This type of “pull” strategy of content marketing is so much more effective than “push strategy” of cold calling or advertising. If public speaking isn’t your thing, make it your thing by joining a local Toastmasters chapter because public speaking is a learned skill. But if you aren’t ready to speak publicly, start with writing. The trade organizations and publications your target reads are always hungry for fresh content. For example, I write for the SMPS-SD Newsletter that then gets repurposed into their blog. Find out who the editor of publication is that you’d like to submit to. Then, send a letter or call to introduce yourself. Ask how they would like to receive submission ideas, and if they ever need expert sources for articles written by others. Don’t sell your story ideas in your first contact. After you build a relationship, then propose an article where you can share useful knowledge (see tip #3 above) while demonstrating your expertise. If it gets published, be sure to send copies to your target audience.