There are so many opportunities and channels where you could spend time networking that it is often times hard to know where to focus your time, effort and resources. I know from years of experience and countless wasted hours of coffee chats that networking can run you ragged and leave you and your business work weary.
So what’s the litmus test for deciding when to drive to meet someone or when to stay in your office and phone the referrals you may have? HOW do you decide which could produce the most beneficial results and be a time management best practice?
There is a fine line between growing your legitimate network versus just being a person that is out and about connecting here, there and everywhere. If you become the latter I can promise you 100% that you will burn out.
I have 3 basic rules I follow in choosing where I allocate my time when it comes to growing my network. I follow the 3 R’s: 1.Research, 2.Referrals, 3. Repetition.
Before I venture out to a business event or meeting I do some research. Sometimes it’s just a quick visit to an organization’s website to see what their mission and vision is all about. Does it align with my business objectives and personal goals? I then scan for mentions of its members or attendees and I look them up through various social media. If I see something that doesn’t translate to what I consider to be good judgement well, then I reconsider. If the organization touts itself to be “X” but the members of the group seem to not exactly align with that “X”, then I find myself pondering whether attending an event with said individuals is wise. Perception is reality you know so if I don’t like what I see, well…
I also look for referrals from like-minded professionals. If they are raving fans of particular groups and organizations and they obviously have developed positive and profitable relationships by being associated with them, then I’m in. It’s a great way to learn about movers and shakers without putting too much time into figuring it out cold…by hearing about them from trusted peers, I view them as warm leads. You can also then go with said peer to one of these group’s events and have them make introductions for you. Again, it is all about leveraging how to make things a wee bit easier. Often when you are referred to a group by an existing member you are eligible for a complimentary visit. That’s how some organizations grow by incentivizing members.
Lastly is repetition. It is important to me to find networking opportunities through groups that have regular and ongoing events. In these types of situations, you get to foster relationships with people, and truthfully, sometimes that takes time but it ends up being more organic and typically more fruitful because of it.
An organization like a chamber of commerce or a professional or business organization that meets monthly is perfect for me. Once you find a group of people that are warm and friendly and serious about their business you win because there are so many groups out there competing for your time. I have to spend time in the productive places with productive people, not just mere social gatherings. A bit of balance is important but you can’t get your time back, so treat it as such.