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Getting the Most Out of Your Networking Organization
By Mary B. Relotto, Founder, Dames Bond LLC
Published On:  3/31/2013

Getting the Most Out of Your Networking Organization

So you've decided to join a networking community. Congratulations! It’s a great first step to marketing the greatest product you have to offer, "YOU"!

I am a firm believer that your "involvement", or lack thereof, within any business community , is THE key to your success or demise in business.  On occasion I hear, ‘I haven’t received any business through XYZ networking group.’ The first thing I ask is, "How involved are you?"  Being involved doesn't necessarily mean attending networking events, but making the most of your online membership benefits.

Most people still practice the dinosaur-approach to networking -   bring your business cards and leave your personal life at home. Wayyyyy back in the day, I used to bring 50 business cards to an event and if I passed out 15 and collected at least twice as much, I had a successful networking experience.
Pre-2006: I would proceed with my business card first, assuming they wanted my card, a handshake, ask for their card in return and went on to the next person. Rarely did I get a call the next day and even worse, rarely did I follow up with anyone with whom I met.

No matter how many times I heard about follow-up techniques and what to do with the cards I had acquired, rarely did I follow any method or technique that would lead me to new business. The fact is, I never made an authentic connection with anyone. I couldn't remember who I met. It was a card-to-card approach that simply doesn't work.  The approach was wrong! 

My problem?  I left my personality and my natural instinct to want to know the person with whom I might be interested in doing business, at home. You’ve heard of "Speed Networking" right? It takes networking to a whole new level of WRONG! Why? There is no relationship building in the experience. Unless of course you an ask the right questions. It requires a certain technique. 
Some networking organizations give members the opportunity to be listed in their business directory. It’s considered a "value point" for your membership. But it isn’t "valuable" unless you’re connecting "outside of the directory". If the networking organization isn’t actively marketing its directory to consumers, outside of the organization, your business is trapped. 

Some people don't like networking. However, if you’re relying on the business directory alone, you’re not using your membership to your full potential. Business directories can give you an opportunity to showcase your credibility and expertise. For example, Dames Bond gives you the opportunity to post: 

  • links to your website
  • links to all of your social media sites
  • expert articles
  • a full description of your business
  • logo
  • profile picture
  • events

When networking, remember the organizations in which you are involved. You can tell everyone you contact to check out your profile on the organization's website.  This approach gives you the opportunity to market the networking group with which you are involved. It's another way to connect with prospects and referral sources. 

Connections cascade into referrals. Don't get down on the networking group if you're not getting business directly from members. While you may not acquire a new client during a networking event, you may connect with someone who can refer you to a friend, colleague or family member. People you meet at networking events will often lead you to new clients. It may take a moment, but business eventually follows. 
Sometimes networking events are a necessity. The more obscure your profession, the more you have to connect outside of the business directory. You should be actively involved in the networking community by attending networking events, hosting a networking event at your location, speaking during an event, offering coupons or raffle items to be given away at events. The more exposure you can get within the group, the better. 

The fact is, there are so many wonderful business organizations that serve so many niches.  There's no reason anyone in Central Ohio should fail in business, given the resources that are available to them. Get involved! Have fun! Be Authentic! 
Here are five tips to follow when attending your next networking event. I hope they will help you make authentic connections that lead to business. When Dames bond, Dames thrive!
1. Keep your business cards in your wallet, pocket or purse,unless  someone asks for it.
When you approach someone, ask them what they do outside of networking. A good question to ask: "What do you do when you're not working or networking?" This is your chance to authentically "connect" with someone you know little about.
2. Only ask for someone’s card if you are genuinely interested in them and not just building your business card portfolio or call list.
3. When talking with someone, look the person in their eyes and focus on them, not everyone else in the room.I can’t tell you how annoying it is when I’m talking with someone and the only thingI notice are their eyes scouring the room for their next client. The person you are talking with should be your main priority.
4. If you collected any business cards, hopefully because you had "meaningful" connections, go home and connect with them on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.In your Facebook request, write a simple note like, "Great meeting you tonight at ___________. I'd like to connect with you here."
Speaking of Facebook, you should NEVER request a connection/friendship without a simple greeting. I rarely accept anyone’s friend request who doesn’t let me know why they want to connect with me. A simple note might read, "I see we have a lot of wonderful friends in common. I’d like to connect."
5.Be active! Belonging to a networking community can be as easy as writing a check. It can also be a lot of fun if you get involved! To get what you deserve out of a networking community you need to be active and involved in the networking process, person to person. 13Business WILL follow.

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