When I started my business, I thought the best way for me to get the word out about my company, was to join a networking group. So I did. I joined a few. After a while, it seemed like I spent more time NETworking, than REAL working. Not to mention, I was seeing the same people at every meeting. That was not a pivotal revelation. The pivotal revelation came when I realized that every time they introduced themselves at an event, they said something different. That’s when it came to my attention that some people owned their companies, but not their businesses. What does this mean? It meant they didn’t control their brand. Here are a couple of tips I recommend when branding your company through networking.
One of the most important aspects of building a brand is consistency. Your message has to be consistent in order to become a household name. I once went to a networking meeting. A gentleman stood up and said he “helps bring the party from the inside to the outside.” I was thinking of throwing a party in the fall, and thus needed someone to do the event. Based on his slogan, I approached him after the meeting. Imagine my surprise to find out he sold outdoor living furniture. In his attempt to be clever, his entire message was lost. Many believe you need to constantly reinvent yourself to not become stale. In many arenas I agree. However, the purpose of a networking group isn’t exclusively to sell to the people in the room. It is to establish a network of people that can speak for you, or your company, when you aren’t there. The audience should be able to pantomime your elevator speech when you give it. That is the only way they can repeat it, out in the community.
Second, networking isn’t about collecting business cards. Again, it’s building a group of people that can speak for you in, your absence. In order for that to happen, you must develop a relationship, which begins with an actual conversation. I am often asked for, and handed, business cards by people I have never even spoken with. When I network, my goal is to distribute/ receive 1-2 cards every 10 min-15 min. I seek out the individuals that I wish to speak to, engage them in a meaningful conversation, and then exchange cards. Often, I set up a meeting at the same time. This allows us to know who the other is when we make the follow up call. When I get home and look through my collected business cards, the cards I don’t recognize are placed on my mailing list, and the card is discarded. (no pun intended). I am not going to call them, or accept a meeting from them, unless they are looking to purchase clothing. If I don’t know who are you, why would I meet with you? The exception is if they call me, and remind me who they are, but then again 90% of the time I am still not going to meet with them. My time is too valuable to waste in a meeting with someone trying to get me to sell Pre -Paid Legal. (Not that anything is wrong with it. I have it and I swear by it. If you don’t have it, get it- Facebook Fam, Carlos V. Davis can hook you up- and no, I’m not getting paid to say this, just trying to help you out). I am not going to tell my clients about any multi – level marketing company, or any other business unless they specifically ask for it. It will be unprofessional and unappreciated. If they ask my advice, then I will share your information with prior approval, of course. They pay me to provide their clothing, not diversify their portfolios.
The next time you are going to a networking event, have a plan. Successful businesspeople establish a plan, then adjust it as necessary. I hope I helped you out, if not maybe next time. And remember, you don’t have to agree with me. I’m William Wilson, and this is just my perspective.
God bless and dress well,