What is Networking, and why is it "Not Working" for me?
Let's begin by reminding you what the term "networking" means. Sometimes what we're familiar with or experience at one moment translates into a certain meaning or understanding, and people don't really remember the purpose of the event itself. According to Wikipedia, "Business networks, networking, is a marketing approach that makes use of social encounters of business people and business owners from different backgrounds for the purpose of creating social networks intended to lead toward cooperation and business opportunities."
We see that this concept has no reference to business owners of one type or another, not to growing the business or the stage a business is in. In other words, networking suits every type of business at every stage. I will add that, from my personal experience and that of many around me, networking is a long-term outlook and we'll only see its fruits after some time.
Especially during the initial stages of a business, the objective is for everyone to understand our indispensability and for there to be an outcome every place we go - in other words, clients that come and want to buy our service/product. Networking, in this case, can help from a place of support, learning and understanding as a first step, and building colleagues for the second stage.
When marketing via networking, there are definitely possibilities for immediate results. However, the best results are the long-term ones that generate cooperation and yield a large number of clients, rather than a single client from that meeting we attended. In this case, the temptation is huge – for immediate income versus building foundations; so you need to always remind yourself that a few long-term clients are preferable over the one immediate client.
We build a business with goals for years in the future and bringing in work will always be part of that. When the foundation is broad and the business is marketed through one avenue or another, the goal is that some of the foundation we've already created will work for us. Then we'll be free to market in other, different channels.
It's sometimes hard to hear the cliché about patience and "it will come for you too", but there's no escaping it. The networking format is based on relationships and word of mouth marketing. A new person can sound impressive and have a professional appearance, but each of us fears recommending him or using his services without having used the product. And that's why you need to give the relationship time to develop.
The rules of the game are clear – in order to get work, you need to do work. The feeling that we met interesting people during the event who have potential for to get to know and collaborate with is just not enough. We need initial contact after the event to evaluate the likelihood of a special meeting with those who understood and supported the idea of our business. Even if their work has no direct connection to ours, we can never tell who else they know. Of course chemistry plays a part, and individuals we connected with easily are generally the same ones we'll continue with in the long-term.
And what did networking give me? Exposure, marketing, branding, clients, cooperation, business partners, wonderful, quality people I was lucky to meet, and great friends. I strongly suggest participating in different networking events from a psychological "place" of giving and receiving. The returns will come back to you at one point or another. That's where patience and perseverance come into play.
Good luck, Kineret Aisenberg, founder of Networking & Wine