Networking. The mere word conjures up discomfort: There you are, making forced small talk with complete strangers while balancing cube-shaped cheese or veggies and a pool of dip on a plastic plate. But networking isn't just an activity you do over cocktails and finger foods or with conversations centered around safe topics like the weather or what you find most "rewarding" about your job.
Networking is simply any act that builds strong personal connections with other people. And it's an essential activity—a necessary evil, some may say—for advancing your career or, if you're an entrepreneur, for securing new business and meeting investors. Since it's a human-focused undertaking, you're actually networking every time you interact with another person—or at least you can be. Each tap, tweet, post, message, and comment is the chance to make a connection—therefore, it's networking. That means that in the space of an ordinary workday, you have plenty of opportunities to network in a multitude of micro-ways, hold the micro-cheese. Here are a few of them.
YOUR EMAIL SIGNATURE
Come what may of other communication tools, email isn't going anywhere soon. According to a recent Radicati report, the average number of business emails sent and received per user each day totaled 122. And that figure is set to grow; by 2019, researchers estimate, we’ll be trading 126 emails a day. So rather than groaning about the state of your inbox, consider the 122 networking opportunities you have each time you hit "send." Set up an email signature line if you don't have one, and take a fresh look at it if you do. Do recipients know not only how to reach you (off email) but also what they should be seeking you out for when they do? Does your signature line appear at the bottom of each email sent, or do you have to remember to drop it in each time? Send yourself an email and consider how it looks from the perspective of a recipient. Would you like to talk to that person on the basis of the signature line alone? If not, change it.
You may have a polished, professional, up-to-date profile on LinkedIn, but that only tells part of your career story. To use LinkedIn to its fullest, you can't just treat it as a directory. You have to share updates pretty regularly in order to tell connections what’s on your mind, whether it's your point of view on some industry news story or just congratulating a colleague on a business win. You can break out of your own immediate professional sphere, too. Consider sharing updates on a nonprofit cause you care about; many business connections deepen around shared charitable interests, not just professional ones. And yes, updates are a chance to toot your own business horn—but just as the best networking isn't all "me me me," you should also use updates to cross-sell your colleagues’ talents or promote the services of vendors you trust. (Just remember that LinkedIn is still a business platform, so keep your LOLs and selfies for other social networking sites.)
YOUR SPEAKER OR AWARD BIO
Okay, maybe you aren't exactly invited to speak or receive an award on a daily basis, but the further you go in your career, the more often these opportunities may crop up. As they do, you'll need to craft custom bios that are tailored to each one. And as counter intuitive as it sounds, even if you're the main-stage attraction, the bio you submit should be all about the audience, not about you: Who are they? Why do they care about what you have to say or what you've accomplished? How can you draft your bio to connect with them more meaningfully? The bio you submit won't just appear in a program handout, it's also likely to be posted on the event or organization’s website, included in online marketing materials and even a press release (where others will readily find it with a quick Google search). So take the time to craft a targeted bio each time you're asked for one. Use the opportunity to not only just tell them what you’ve done in the past, but also to show them what they should be seeking from you in the future.
FDMC Social & Digital Media LLC
Social Media marketing is no longer for B2B companies as a company. What I mean by that is branding your business means putting you as a person who owns that business out there so your clients and customers know you are real. You are reachable and you are a human. Engaging your audience by creating that on-line personality not only helps you, it helps your brand. People will feel they really do know you.
Over 90% of B2B companies enjoy a presence on LinkedIn and more than 80% use Twitter and Facebook to reach their audience. Being social tough does not mean they know what they are doing. Using social media takes planning and strategy. Less than 50% of marketing planners have any kind of plan to make sure they are getting any kind of ROI on investing their time, money, and production in using social media platforms.
To make your social media investment profitable and useful, consider what your audience wants to see and hear. Use their perspective and not yours. Be human and not a machine or a huge wall of corporate stats that nobody understands or really cares. Make your brand fun, enjoyable, interactive, and let the people engage in talking to you about it all. Now here are the 3 most used platforms for B2B social media.
Linkedin. The top site for business interaction. Linkedin is very virtual for networking. It is wonderful for promoting leads, leadership, and relationships. Linkedin allows for uploading images, video, and presentations. You can customize your header, profile, and content. While a professional network it is still a platform for reaching individual people.
Blogging. Start using a company blog to talk about what you as a person is doing to enhance your brand and your business. Offer tips and share your knowledge. Let your customers know you care about what they want in your business and share those thoughts. Be approachable through your blog. Your blog can also be about related topics or even your own hobbies and interests but don't get political or narrow-minded or aggressive. Keep it fun, fresh, and interactive.
Websites. When is the last time you updated your website? Is your content changed out at least monthly? Are you tracking your analytics? How are those images or videos doing you uploaded? Have you even put any on your site? Don't make a website just a place holder of your brand. Make use of it and allow interaction. Link your website to all your social media platforms. Good luck with your B2B marketing plan and remember. Put "you" before your company.
I recently read an interesting article about Linkedin. Here is the link which features an interview with Mr. Dan Roth, Executive Editor with Linkedin. Linkedin . What Mr. Roth explains is the growing popularity about Linkedin as not only a social media tool, but as a business within your business. Anyone who has been on Linkedin for any time has seen how this platform as evolved from up and coming business professionals posting their resumes to a huge network of groups learning from each other about their respective trades. It is business professionals helping other business professionals.
I love this tool. I can find more information about my various business interests on one platform instead of searching all over. I find most people on Linkedin are happy to exchange their ideas with you and give you references to help you solve a problem you may have or get more information about a particular topic. You will find everyone from CEO's to a department head on Linkedin. While Linkedin did get it's roots as a resume posting site (and it still does this) Linkedin remains a free social networking site. (They do offer a paid pro version upgrade) Thousands of people have found white-collar jobs using Linkedin but more importantly, just as many if not more have found professional connections from within their community to around the world using this popular platform. It is not Facebook, It is not Twitter (but you can post daily subject matter if you wish). You do not talk about your kids, your movie you went to last night, but you post about business related information you might helpful to your peers. Chamber of Commerce's, retail outlets, services, doctors, lawyers, almost anyone in business can be found on Linkedin. If you have not signed up for Linkedin, I encourage you to do so.
I love networking. You might even call me a social butterfly ( Did I say that?)
If you go to a networking event and you return with no business cards in
your pocket or some jotted down notes then why did you go? While these events
are good for leads, they are also good to help other associates who might be
having a tough time with a sale, idea, job loss, staffing issues, or other events that
occurred in their business. These folks want more than a pat on the
back and a "I'm sorry to hear that." Relationships are built on developing trust
and if you can help them, they will help you. I understand competition in
today's world seems to be cutthroat and its all about survival in this
entitlement society we seem to live in but also SMB's who network see the same
familiar faces and from that, we learn to help each other.
Networking helps you succeed and yes, there is a
level of knowledge you need to be good at it. If you go to an event and sit on
your hind end drinking a beer or soft drink and wonder why nobody is talking to
you, then you don't belong there. You are selling yourself and your business.
You should come with business cards, look presentable (business casual for most
of these events) and smile. Some of my colleagues have suggested that at
networking events, don't go handing out business cards left and right and I tend
to agree. Most of these events are informal and a time to relax. If they ask for it
by all means then exchange cards but do not go handing them out to every new face you see.
Say hello, ask them what they do, and say how glad you are to meet them and also if they are new,
Introduce them to others you know to make them feel welcome and at home.
This will help them feel good about coming. One final note, if you do receive a card
with their email address is on it and you feel they may be a viable lead for you,
send them an informal email saying it was great to meet them. Dont load itup with
everything you do. Hopefully you have a business signature that explains that.
keep it simple on your first email contact and just say it was a pleasure to meet them
and you hope to see them at future events. Now you broke the ice and left an impression.
Another quick item with networking is what I like to term the A to B connection.
When you network, take charge of the conversations, listen, and always have an address
book in your head open. When you coordinate people with other people at
these events, you are remembered and it comes back in dividends to you. Just
because they may be looking fo something you don't offer, don't be a jerk and
say fine and walk away. If they need a hammer and all you sell is screwdrivers,
maybe someone at the event sells hammers. Put them together. If the new face
came looking for a job, ask them about their skills and maybe a temp agency or
you know of one of your contacts may be looking for someone with their skills.
Networking is more than meet and greet. It is looking at the big picture each
and every time.
My last comment is this. This is a no brainer but it has to be said. Do not over indulge
in the adult beverages if you drink. I have seen this one too many times when the
booze flows then the "Mr. Big Shot" takes over or the flirting starts and this
is not the time or the place for that. Most networking events offer an open or
cash bar but be responsible. You represent your business. Even if your friends
are there, say hello but move around and do what you came there for. Network!
I hope these tips were helpful and now go try them out. Let me how it works for you.