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 networking:
- 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 sponsorship.
- 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 type.
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.
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People have a tendency to get online at random times and start clicking away. Then something mysterious happens to the space-time continuum, and all of a sudden two hours goes and they have nothing to show for it.