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Biba F. Pédron is the founder of Biba4Network, that specializes in Networking for small business owners in the greater New York Area; and Focus on Career, that helps solo entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

Biba is the author of “Start Your Dream Business Today! The Proven 11 Steps to Start and Grow Your Own Business”.

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15 Ways to Maximize Your Networking Effort
by Biba F. Pédron
1. The #1 Success of Networking is to Show Up
When you join a group or an organization, it is very important that you commit to the group, and attend the meetings on a regular basis. Weekly or monthly depending on the group you choose.

In order to build relationships with other members, they need to meet you more than once, and you need to meet them more than once. The more times you attend the meetings, the more you will get results you will achieve. At each meeting, you will learn a little more about them and their business, and they will learn more about you. The more they see you, the more they know about you, the more they trust you, the more referrals they will give you.

2. Always Arrive Prepared
Conduct some research before you decide to attend an event to know what kind of people will be attending. Are they in your target market, will you face a lot of competitors or do you have a clear way to stand out from the crowd?

Spend some time on the website of the group that organized the event to learn about them. Do they specialize in a specific industry? Does the group focus on  small and intimate events? Or do they pack the room with hundreds of people?

Sometimes I have people who come to my events, and are surprised to see only 12 to 15 people, but it is mentioned on the website that is what makes Biba4Network and our meetings different from other groups’ meetings and programs. On our home page we mention : “Because networking is more than just shaking hands and collecting business cards, most of our events are limited to 15 people, to drive better results. There’s more time to introduce yourself and your business to the group, more time to get to know each other, so more time to get business.” So if they had taken a look at the website first, they would have known our style and wouldn’t have been surprised or disappointed.

When you go to an event, it is also very important to have one or two important goals in mind. Are you looking for leads, partners, new clients, services? You will not approach people the same way, and you want to be sure to send the right message and use your time wisely.

3. Never Leave Home Without Your Business Cards
Wherever you go—to a networking event, to the dentist, to the movies, to a party, always bring business cards with you. You never know where you will meet an interesting new contact, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to exchange cards. Writing your telephone number or email address on a piece of paper or a napkin, doesn’t look very professional.

Always carry a pen, or some people will prefer a PDA, to take notes on the back of the cards you receive—something you would like to remember about the person, something they said, and something you promise to send them. Use your business card as a marketing tool to help you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t put only your name and address, but add your logo. I know it may sound obvious but many professionals don’t have a logo at least on their card. Add your website address, so people can check it later to learn more about your business. Add your tagline which explains your business in one line; if you don’t have a tagline or slogan, it is time to think about it.

Let’s say you are a coach or a financial advisor, no doubt, you have a lot of competition. What makes you unique and special? When people see your card, they will probably say, “Oh, another one!” but if you mentioned your specialties on your card, it will make a difference immediately.

Take my business card as an example. Very often, when people receive it, even before they read it, they say  “Nice card”. First, because of the quality of the paper, very thick, glossy, you can see that I didn’t print the card myself with my printer. It is very colorful and matches my website. The card mentions “Seminars, Workshops & Networking” which explains exactly what I do, and my tagline “Build Your Business While You Build Friendships” which is the purpose of the networking meetings that I organize to help people build relationships to grow their business through networking.

You can also use the back of your card, to provide more details about your business. Use bullet points to emphasize the  purpose of your products and services. Show how you can be a problem solver to others, to make sure that they will call you the next day.

A business card is a “space ad”. When you pay for an ad in a newspaper you pay a lot of money so you try to use all the space, to get the most benefit. Do the same with your business card; use the most space available.

4. Have an Effective 15 to 30 Second Elevator Pitch
We talked about this earlier in the book, but this is one of the keys to successful networking. Remember to introduce yourself, and tell them the old adage “What’s in it for me” or more accurately, “what’s in it for them.” Learn how to “sell” yourself before you sell your services and products. People want to learn about you - what you’re about, what you can do before they make a purchase or consider referring you to one of their valuable contacts.

When you tell others about your business, be passionate, energized and energetic. Personalize your story so that your new contacts can picture themselves as part of your story. This will help them become a part of your mission.

Then once they know you and trust you, they will either buy your services or if they don’t need what you offer; they will [hopefully] refer you to someone else. They will actually do the selling for you. If they trust you, this trust will appear in the message they send to others.

When a friend tells you how much they loved a book, a restaurant or a product, they put such passion in their message that most of the time, you will buy the book or the product because you want to have the same feeling. Do you personally know the author of the book? No, but you buy it anyway. So your friend did the selling, not the author. Do you see what I mean?

Clearly introduce yourself, in 15 to 30 seconds, so people will understand exactly what you do; that will help you attract your target market and you will not lose potential clients. Don’t have only one elevator pitch but 3 or 4, to be able to adapt your message depending of your audience.

5. DO NOT SELL
I said it before, but I will repeat the point again; DO NOT SELL. Networking events are not places to sell. Do not give a sales pitch. Just introduce yourself, who you are, what you do, how you can help people. You attend these meetings and gatherings to get contacts and build relationships, not to sell. That is the ONE AND ONLY purpose of a networking meeting. The buying will come later on.

6. Meet People, Make Connections, Ask About Their Business or Services. Be curious, Ask About Them.
People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions and more importantly, listen to their answers. Use those answers to see how you can help them, how you can assist them, what resources you can share with them…And, as I mentioned earlier, this will always come back to you. People you meet will also be able to help you, give you referrals and resources, even if is it not today, the time will come.

7. Be a Problem-Solver
People will be more interested in you if you tell them how you can solve their problems and challenges instead of just telling them your story. Blah, blah, blah. Stand out from the crowd. Over the long run, you’ll win all the business you desire.

8. Go to People; Don’t Wait for Them to Come to You
Some people are very shy, and they will be happy if you make the first move. Remember, people attend networking meetings to meet other people and expand their circle of contacts. Help them ; make it easier for others to meet you.

9. Go to Events with a Friend, Colleague, or Client, and Introduce People to Each Other
You will be considered a “Pro Networker.” People will think that you know almost everyone, and others will come to speak with you. This tactic puts you in the center of the group and brings people to you.

10. Project a Professional Image 
Maintain a brochure and/or a website. Some people will probably want to learn more about your business later, so give them the opportunity to get the information they are looking for in a format they can digest and on their own timetable. Make it easy for people to get to know you.

I get very frustrated when I meet someone and can’t understand what they do. Sometimes the reason is that we met only for a few seconds and other times because they were not very clear when they described their business or because I just didn’t understand. Remember English is not my first language, so sometimes I can get “lost in translation.” When I return home and want to look at their website to learn more about them, I notice that they don’t have a website. If you don’t have a website now, put this task high on your to-do list. In the meantime, at least create a brochure.

Personally, I don’t like brochures. I realized that a brochure wasn’t the best medium for my business. I use postcards instead. Postcards are relatively small, more eye catching than a brochure and easier for people to read quickly. Postcards send your message immediately.

I increased by 20% the number of members as soon as I started using postcards. It is an intro to learn more and to invite people to visit my website. I don’t like to receive brochures either, because they take up too much room, and I don’t know what to do with the paper once I get home. I already have hundreds of business cards in my organizer; that is enough.

This is my personal opinion. For some industries brochures work very well.

11. Project the Right Image, Make the Right Impression, and Create the Right Impact
What makes you unique? Every person I have ever met is different from all the other people I know. Everyone is unique in one way or another. This carries over into the business you create. When you display your individualism- your best traits- you will stand out from the crowd. When you are proactive, you will meet many new people, and you will ensure that others remember who you are.

12. 24-48 Hours After an Event, Send a "Thank You" Note or Email to Your New Contacts.
Thank them for their time and reintroduce yourself in a few lines. They probably met many people during the event and your business card cannot say everything about you, especially if you had a meaningful conversation with the person. So, it’s worthwhile to reinforce your introduction and reestablish that connection.

Give them the link to your website, so they can learn more about you and your business. Tell them about your newsletter if you have one, and invite them to subscribe. That will be the best way to stay in touch on a regular basis, so they will always know what you are up to. Hopefully, they will forward your publication to others and this will expand your network further.

13. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
Schedule follow-up meetings with people you had a good connection with, or if you think that you can help each other. Put an organization and a follow-up system in place; don’t become overwhelmed with all your business cards, be organized; put your cards in a binder, for example a business card file or portfolio. Or, use a database system like ACT®  or Microsoft® Outlook ®.

Send follow-up emails; contact your new contacts on a regular basis; again sending your newsletter is often the ideal way to stay in touch. Develop your A, B, C lists to know how often you should contact people and reconnect with them. Follow up as soon as possible, when someone gives you a referral. Your contact took the time to give you a referral, so don’t spoil it; contact the referral source to thank them and then let them know how your interaction went. If the association works well, they will be glad to be part of the success and more than happy to give you more contacts in the future. Volunteer to give them contacts in return.

14. Look at the Big Picture – Create Partnerships
Instead of looking for a potential client, and working with people one at a time, look for other professionals with whom you can create partnerships.

Look for others to cross-promote your business. Entrepreneurs who have businesses that complement yours, but who are not competitors. Someone who has the same or similar target market as you. So if you cross-promote each other, instead of having access to one potential prospect at a time, you will have access to their entire mailing list, 100s or 1000s of people, who are your exact target.

Organize events together: seminars, workshops, teleclasses. You will get more exposure in less time.

15. Do It Again and Again
You will see how networking will expand your contacts and will definitely help you grow your business.


About the Author
Biba F. Pédron,marketing consultant, is the founder of Biba4Network, that specializes in Networking for small business owners in the greater New York Area; and Focus on Career, that helps solo entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. 

Biba is the author of “Start Your Dream Business Today! The Proven 11 Steps to Start and Grow Your Own Business”.

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2006, Biba F. Pédron
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