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Business Networking Blog

The BIG Mistake That Means Networking Doesn’t Work
Andy Lopata asked me recently to write an article on the mistakes that people make in business networking. This article is now published in Andy's newsletter at Fresh Business Thinking. As I researched the topic with my network and reflected on my experiences I realised there was one BIG mistake.

Business people often turn to networking at different times. Start ups will often network like crazy early on and established businesses will often start when traditional routes to market dry up. The thing they very often have in common is the idea that networking is the answer to their problem. This first and BIG mistake that many people make is they dive headlong into the activity of networking with a complete misunderstanding of what networking really is.

This activity often involves looking for opportunities to ‘network’ with lots of people. They attend group meetings (once) swapping business cards with everyone they can, broadcasting their message, chasing immediate transactions and moving on. They join online networks, put together a profile and broadcast some more. After a while this doesn’t work and many conclude that networking doesn’t work.

Some think they may need to do something differently and they may get some training into how to work the room and how to craft the perfect elevator pitch. They do the rounds again and wait for the avalanche of new clients to contact them by email, phone, twitter, linkedin, facebook et al. Again this doesn’t work and a few more conclude that networking doesn’t work.

It doesn’t have to be that way! There are plenty of networking groups out there with experienced business people that will help you avoid the mistakes and make sure networking does work for you and your business. For 10 tips on learning from the mistakes others have made go the to full article on The BIG Mistake That Means Networking Doesn’t Work.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 13 Jul 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Business Development,Networking Tips
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Something to do with those business cards you collected
I was interrupted last week at a networking group meeting by someone who wanted to commend something to the group. Positive interruptions that enhance your message are always very welcome! He said it had been a really useful exercise to go through all the business cards he had collected over a couple years after reading the NRG workbook on developing your business networking plan.

He had separated these cards into the four categories suggested in the workbook. He uses Outlook to manage his contacts so he then created these categories in Outlook. He entered the details of any new contacts into his Outlook Address Book and then put all his contacts into those categories. This means he can now manage the interactions he has with his network more effectively. He can also see, at a glance, who he needs to focus his networking activity with.

The four categories of contacts are your Outer Network, your Resource Network, your Inner Network and your Advocate Network.

Your Outer Network is made up of the people that you have met, but have no real connection with. You don't know what you could do for them, but it is useful to have a record of where and when you met. You paths may well cross again and you make that connection.

Your Resource Network is made up of the people that you have met and you know them well enough to recognise they have a particular skill or offer a valuable service. You don’t want to spend more time in developing a relationship with them, but they are useful to introduce to other contacts when appropriate.

Your Inner Network is made up of the people that you have met, have had some sort of follow up and are building a relationship. They share a similar target market to you and probably provide a service that is complementary to yours. We will call them your Inner Network & it is spending time with these people that starts to make networking really work. One really efficient way of doing this is to ensure you belong to the same networking groups.

Your Advocate Network is the small group of people you would go out of your way to find introductions and referrals for. The people you advocate are the people you have already developed a relationship with and you know, like, rate and trust them. It is spending time doing things for these people where you get the highest networking returns.

Successful networkers have up to 30 people in their Inner Network & about 6 Advocates. Do you know who these people are for you?

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 10:00:00, 06 Jul 10
Tags: Like,Networking for Advocates,Advocate Marketing,Inner Network,Rate,Return on Investment,Advocacy,Building Your Network,Business Networking,Know,Trust,NRG,Referrals,Networking System
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The secret to getting results when networking for business
I interviewed Chartered Accountant, Douglas Shanks, last week about generating results from business networking. When talking about referrals Douglas said "The secret to getting referrals is giving referrals so focus on what you can give".

That simple sentence contains the essence of a successful approach to building your network. Obviously you will want to benefit from the relationships you build with others and you want them to advocate and refer you when they can. This short podcast explains the importance of advocating others in your network first.

Listen here:

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 14:16:00, 29 Jun 10
Tags: Business Networking,Networking for Advocates,Advocate Marketing,Referrals,Networking Tips,Advocate,Advocacy,Building Your Network
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Are you networking or building your network
In conversation with a couple of people last week I asked if they thought there was a difference between networking and building your network. They answered that when they started formal networking they were recently out of corporate life and they thought networking was all about finding people to do business with directly. This meant they went around attending lots of meetings and finding loads of new people. They did training courses on elevator pitches, talking to strangers and working the room. They didn't generate any business, but they didn't give up.

They realised through their experiences that effective networking was not a one touch contact sport but about building a network as the one real asset of a small business or independent professional. It became important to find groups of like minded people to replace the things they took for granted in Corporate Life. They are now building relationships with people they have things in common with by sharing business, support and knowledge.

I believe that building the right network for you and your business is vital. If you start with that premise it gives you the real reason for networking and your whole approach changes your focus from you to the people you meet.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 12:22:00, 22 Jun 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Building Your Network
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The missing ingredient in business networking
I spent a day at the start of this week with some colleagues and associates in a regular monthly meeting for the leaders of our NRG Business Groups. The focus of the day is all about how we can help each other build our respective businesses through the collective power of our shared networks. The meeting is facilitated to keep our overall objectives in mind whilst enjoying it and the social element is an essential part of the mix. Our discussions and interactions are primarily about building business, but they are also about supporting each other and sharing ideas, knowledge and best practice.

Someone pointed out to me that the overall experience was very similar to many business and networking meetings. There was, however, one big difference. We were focused on an ongoing strategy for helping to build each others business rather than just networking for the sake of it.

For many people the missing ingredient in their networking is focus. They have a general idea, but no specific reasons why they are doing it. Without that focus it can be difficult to work out where to network, who to network with, when to do it, what it is really all about and how to go about it.

Maybe the title of this post should be the 6 missing ingredients...

If you know anyone who could do with some help with how to build their network in a strategic way then please share this free download to help them work on the four key steps to building business through networking - http://bit.ly/NRGpdf

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 16 Jun 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Advocate Marketing,Advocacy,Building Your Network
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Do business networks collaborate or compete?
"Avoid the competition" was a comment from Courtney Sperlazza in response to my post entitled What is the right approach in business networking? She went on to explain:

"I don't mean to avoid your competitors. What I mean is, avoid the concept of competition. You can work collaboratively with anyone. Even if you're in similar industries, there is something the other guy can do that you can't do and vice versa. Some of us call those things opportunities!"

One of the first steps we encourage in our advocacy model to how business networking really works is to clarify your target market. This is not so you can sell to them at networking events. It is so you can work out who else deals with them and so who you should be networking with to create those opportunities for each other. Real networking is a collaborative activity where you get to build a sustainable route to market for the long term. As I have written before it is not the face to face equivalent of cold calling.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I received a note that said that someone could not attend a meeting of one of our groups because they were a member of a competing network!

Doesn't that miss the point of networks being places to collaborate?

The best example for the networks to set is to collaborate with other networks.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 10:13:00, 08 Jun 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Networking Groups,Business Networking Groups,Collaboration,Advocacy
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Can you do too much networking?
Someone raised the possibility that they may be doing too much networking on the 4networking business forum last week. So can you spend too much time networking?

There are many people who spend too much time attending networking groups & events because they are not really networking. They are really engaged in the face to face equivalent of cold calling. They attend loads of meetings & broadcast loudly, but don't listen. They meet as many people as they can, but never have any time for others. Their idea of following up is to add you to their database. I could go on, but you know who they are. They don't really engage, share or build long term mutually beneficial business relationships.

There are some people who are networking with the best intentions, but don't give themselves enough time for following up. They may need to improve the balance of their networking time and do more one to one interactions between larger meetings.

Those people that 'get' how networking really works invest their time in building relationships with other people they have things in common with. They know that it takes time and you have to know, like, rate and trust someone before you will advocate them. They know this time is worth it as one 'Advocate' is worth far more than lots of one off transactions. They attend meetings to strengthen existing relationships and build some new ones. They get to share business, support, knowledge and have fun doing it too. This sort of networking is legitimate and necessary work time stuff and you probably don't have the time to do enough of it.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 12:16:00, 01 Jun 10
Tags: Like,Networking for Advocates,Advocate Marketing,Networking Tips,Rate,Advocacy,Advocate,Business Networking,How Networking Works,Know,Trust,Networking Relationships
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How business networking really works
There are some people you meet who seem to 'get' networking instinctively. People seem to gravitate to them with a regular stream of opportunities for them and their business. They don't engage in the face to face equivalent of cold calling They spend most of their time with a regular close group of associates and advocates and a lesser amount of time making new contacts. They are active as participants, leaders and advocates of their networking groups.

They know that success from networking is about building relationships. Strengthening their existing ones and building appropriate new ones. They know that the best route to people they don't yet know is through an introduction or recommendation from someone they do.

It can be tempting to think that networking is about finding places and people you don't know. We can learn that is not from those who are successful through networking. As is often the case it's the counter intuitive approach that works. Network with the people you know to get to the ones you don't.

As Andy Lopata posted on Twitter yesterday "networking put simply is working with others to achieve more than we could achieve on our own.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 14:51:00, 25 May 10
Tags: Business Networking,Advocate,crash course in networking,Blog
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What is the right approach in business networking?
It can be tempting to only 'network' with others who do completely different things to you. People who provide different services or products and those from different professions. In fact some groups only allow for one member from each.

In reality it is often those that are more complementary to you that lead to more and quicker opportunities. The similarities mean you get to establish relationships more quickly and it is much easier to find referrals for each other without going out of your way. Even those groups that exclude members in the same line of business recommend joining other more open groups as part of your overall networking strategy.

In the UK a couple of days ago the new Government took their places in Parliament. For the first time in 70 years in the UK there is a coalition government. Whether it will be a success remains to be seen, but it would be refreshing to see a new politics. One that sees politicians working together for the good of the country rather than constantly doing each other down. If the two parties had looked to their differences it is very likely that we would be in a different situation now. By focusing on similarities they have made progress and have the potential to really change the way things work.

The lesson for us in networking is the many more possibilities that open up with an open and collaborative approach.

Are you looking for the common ground with your network?

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 20 May 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Business Networking Techniques,Business Networking Groups,Collaboration
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Are you networking with the right people?
In 'The circles (no more strangers)' Seth Godin writes "It's so tempting to seek out more strangers." He makes the point that trying to reach strangers is expensive and you may very well upset your true fans. He uses an excellent graphic (shown to the right here) to illustrate his point that delighting and overwhelming your true fans is a better strategy than chasing after strangers.

Many business people and professionals give in to this temptation and concentrate their marketing efforts on strangers. Building word of mouth from the people they already know can be neglected and their behaviour in networking can be similar. Their networking is all about finding and connecting directly with the people they don't know.

The key to successful networking is to take the opposite view. Instead of looking for strangers it is about building strong relationships where you get to know, like, rate and trust each other. Instead of spending time with people you don't know try investing quality time in building the right relationships. I think it is worth repeating what I wrote last week in 'How Networking Really Works. A small number of people you get to know really really well can give you access to all the new people you want to meet.

Effective networking is about support and sharing knowledge and finding advocates who recommend and refer you. Good networking groups provide the environment for you to strengthen existing relationships & build new ones. It is much easier and more enjoyable to develop your business in an environment like that.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 18 May 10
Tags: Like,Business Networking,Know,Word of Mouth,Marketing,Advocate Marketing,Trust,Rate
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