I recently met someone at a business networking event who
said “I don’t have any business cards, because I think they are a waste of
money” he went on to explain that people tended to remember him and, if they
wanted to know anything about his business, they would find him if they
searched online. I was amazed. My business is business networking and so that’s
what I do. In a working week I can meet perhaps a couple of hundred people and
whilst each person I meet is memorable in some way, I’m human so people I haven’t met before can be forgotten
or I can misremember the name of their company. When making contact with them
after the event it is the business card that is vital Why? Because I look at
their business online, look them up on Linkedin and connect*, and then make
appropriate contact by email. Appropriate? Some people may have asked to attend
one of my meetings, others have asked to be invited to our corporate events,
and some I have already met, and we are along the road of building a strong
Anyway, back to the business cards. I know that these days
people have various ways of collecting information electronically from the
business cards of people they meet. That is great, but there needs to be a
business card to collect the information from. So my advice to people who don’t
have business cards, or people who just have a telephone number on theirs?
Accept that we are all fabulous and all forgettable and help others help you
and your business by having a business card, it won’t be a waste of money.
*Recently told about ‘Find nearby’ on Linkedin If you, and
the person you are talking to, both have the Linkedin app on your phones: both
open them, tap the My Network tab. Tap Find nearby at the top of the screen.
As the owner of a membership business networking company it
could be said that, of course I want members to bring along people who might
become members, and that is true. So why should members do this? As a networker
we all want to be the person who people come to when they need some product or
service, someone who people see as someone who knows people. Why? Because if
someone asks me if I know a plumber, they are also going to ask me about my networking
if they decide they want to review the networking they do. I recommend all
types of networking to all types of people and, while I hope they will choose
my company when they decide on a membership type of commitment, I accept that
my type of networking, relaxed, informal, but business-focussed with no
pressure, is not for everyone. Some people need a formal style and pressure,
while others need a less structured approach, to get the most from their
One of my Group Directors (GDs) told me that, when they
network outside of ebn,
they talk very briefly about their own business and ask instead “What other
networking do you do?” This means they get to hear of other networking which
they might not know about, and also means that they can talk about ebn and offer an
invitation. Why should they do this? Because if the invitation is accepted and
the visitor attends, the GD can then talk about their business as part of the
meeting and surrounded by people who have used their services and who can recommend
them. Since it is always better for others to say good things about your
business, rather than you (The “You would say that wouldn’t you” syndrome) the
trust is build a little quicker.
Another reason why we should all invite people to good
networking events is that this helps build the relationship. If you tell me
about an event, I attend and have a productive time there, I think more highly
of you, the business relationship becomes stronger and who knows where that
might lead for both of our businesses. If we attend a network event together we
might spend some time together, particularly if this is a relatively new
business relationship, but we shouldn’t stay together. We are there to meet
others. It might be that I introduce you to someone with whom there might be a
synergy between your businesses. If we find we have lots more to say then we
should arrange a date to have a coffee sometime.
So invite people to good networking events, the organisers
will thank you (another benefit) and so might the person you invite.
Networking is a means of meeting
people and building relationships. Once relationships are strong then work will
flow, but remember it is not about what work can be done between the people in
front of you…that is probably very little. However none of us live in a bubble,
we all know people and we all have customers. It is about who do we know, who
do they know, and what work can flow from these connections. That’s what makes
networking exciting; as you walk into a networking event you could meet someone
who could change your life by the amount of business they give you.
So, is it just about getting
business? No it’s not. I believe that ultimately that is what we network for
but what we may find:
Confidence: the more you do it the easier it should get,
because you will hone your skills and each type of group allows you to hone
Skills: how to talk to people about your business.
Each event will provide different ways of telling people about your business,
but in my experience all events include “open networking”.
people who have a wealth of experience in their field. In my experience people
are generous with their knowledge. The challenge is always to learn, whilst not
expecting people to endlessly give for free. I have found the more referrals I
have given the more people are prepared to share their knowledge.
network of people who do things. So if you, or one of your customers or
friends, needs a plumber for example,
you will know one. Or you will know someone who knows one, and just
think if you help potential or existing
customers source suppliers what happens
when they need what you do? They come to you.
Over the years I have made many friends through networking and attended some
good social events…but that is not why I network. Networking is ultimately
about getting work.
At a recent networking event I spoke to someone who said
they never wear their name badge, because they thought it made people lazy
about remembering names. I always
wear a name badge and so I started to think about why I do. There are three
The first, and I think the most important, is that I think
we all have moments when we can’t remember a person’s name or where they work.
A quick glance at a name badge and we relax into the conversation rather than
some part of our brain wondering what the missing details are. This means we
can concentrate completely on what is being said, and surely that aids
communication and building relationships?
The second reason is that people know what to call us. So,
we may be a Matthew on our business card because it is company policy, but
everyone knows us as Matt. Having a name badge with ‘Matt’ showing gives people
permission to call us by the name we are most comfortable with. In a previous
career many people called me Glen and, at that time, only my mum called me
Glenys. My name badge showed Glen and for me it would have been strange to be
called Glenys at work, which is the name I had to use on my business card.
The final reason (and this might just be me) is that my name badge is part of my networking ‘uniform’: professional outfit, business cards and name badge. Ready to go.
So, what do you think? Are you a name badge wearer or not
and, whichever camp you stand in, why is that?
When meeting new members, I always talk to them about my
definition of having a robust networking strategy. The first part of this is to
actually have a strategy, otherwise how can you know whether what you are doing
is worth doing?
For me this kind of strategy includes three types of
Type 1: Cheap or free
These are held at various times of the day and may involve
you buying a drink, or paying a fee on the door, or may be free because of
sponsorship of the event
Type 2: Relatively expensive, to very expensive
The type that, if you were to do it every day, or every
week, would be an expensive marketing tool. This type is almost always a sit-down
meal, perhaps once a month or less frequently, and again may have an element of
Type 3: Membership
When I meet someone networking and they say “Oh, I don’t
join anything” what I hear is ‘hunter’, and by this, I mean someone who is
there only for themselves. Whereas true networking is about building
relationships and being part of a give and take environment. Obviously, I would
like it to always be that people are members of ebn,
but if someone tells me they are a member of another networking company I know
that they have made a commitment to a company rather than just going to see
what’s in it for them.
Why should there be this mix?
There needs to be a mix of networking types because if you
want to meet a wide range of people and companies, and they only go to one
type, then you are never going to meet some of them if you only stick to one
Whatever you do, review your networking as you would any
marketing. I think the review should be based on the question “Is it worth it?”
Some people talk about ROI and mean money. For me ROI can also mean learning
something that assists my business, meeting someone who becomes a supplier and
enables me to get on with my core business and building relationships who
support me and my business.
Recently I have
been a little irritated when having referred a supplier to a potential
customer, I’ve heard nothing about how it all went. So I decided that there are
some things I think should always be done when someone introduces you to one of
If someone gives you a referral or introduces
you to someone follow up the referral or introduction. Otherwise you undermine
the reputation of the person who refers you, and, of course, your own.
Say thank you to the person who gave you the
referral or made the introduction right away, don’t wait to find out whether
work will come from the referral or introduction. A referral does not guarantee
that work will happen, but it certainly increases the odds so acknowledge that
to the person who made the introduction.
If work does come from the referral or
introduction let the person who gave you the referral or made the introduction
know, (you don’t have to tell them how much you made).
Ask the person who gave you the referral or
introduction how you can help them.
None of it difficult or arduous, but it shows you appreciate someone
helping you, it makes sure that they feel valued and, who knows, it may mean
more work will come your way.