When asked, ‘What do you like to get out of networking?’, these were the responses:
- Relationships – we want the opportunity to get to know people in a more meaningful way before we consider doing business.
- Support – it can be very isolating and lonely running a business on your own. Regular networking in a regular group can help mitigate this.
- Expertise – your networking group can become your unofficial team of experts.
- Business – interestingly, it took a while in both groups for somebody to actually voice this one. Yes, of course we’d all like to win more customers through our networking, but it was clear that it was not the sole reason for networking.
- Suppliers – finding people who provide products or services we need, and having an opportunity to get to know them before we do business.
- Collaboration – opportunities to collaborate with other suppliers of similar services or product ranges.
- Recommendations or referrals – everybody agreed that they were more than happy to refer and recommend fellow networkers they had got to know and trust, even if they had not used their services.
- Personal development – again, similar to Support and Expertise, it was felt that being a regular member of a group provides plenty of opportunity to learn and grow, both formally and informally.
When you consider all of the above and that the cost of a networking group such as PopConnect can be as little as £1 per day (less than a latte!) – that strikes me as really excellent value.
This is what people said when asked, ‘How do you like to be followed up with by your fellow networkers?’
Everybody felt very strongly about Personal Contact with this one; meeting for a 1:1 to get to know people better and understand what they do in more depth. Without exception, what caused the most frustration was being spammed with generic group emails or ‘buy my stuff’, ‘like my page’, ‘follow me on Twitter’ messages sent straight after a networking event. Especially disliked were those generic group emails which say ‘It was great to meet and chat with you today.’ Believe it or not, some people had received those even when they hadn’t been at a meeting! This made many very cross; you have been warned!
As an aside, what was interesting was the variety of preferred methods for communication. Some like Facebook messages, some prefer a phone call, some a personal email. So it might be worthwhile taking the time to find out how people like to be contacted.
These are the not-so-surprising replies to the final question, ‘What gets in the way of you following up?’
These are all very similar; we all suffer from extremely busy personal and business lives and, when you run your business on your own, finding time to get everything done is a challenge. It’s a question of priorities, planning and organisation.
Procrastination and confidence generally have fear sitting quietly in the background. We fear failure and rejection, and worry about what others say.
If you don’t feel you’re getting all of these benefits from your networking but would like to, or if you’re suffering from overwhelm, procrastination and fear, consider my two workshops in September.
In the meantime, here are seven tips to help you start to master those follow ups. You may have seen them already, but this will serve as a gentle reminder:
- Make time to follow up – mapping out a plan that enables you to consistently follow up is essential.
- Remember your follow up schedule is just a guideline for you. Our fellow networkers will have their own ideas, so the most we can do is:
– stay consistent
– be reliable
– nurture relationships
– stay in the forefront of people’s minds
- Add value, not stress and aggravation, by providing valuable content and information.
- We are all very busy. Understand that not every follow up needs a direct conversation.
- To build lasting relationships, get round to their side of the table. If somebody likes the phone, call them; if they prefer email, well, you get the idea. Ask them how they prefer you to get in touch.
- Make consistent, small touch points that add value using their preferred method of communication, not yours
- Track everything. There are plenty of free, easy-to-use tools and apps available. Find one that works for you, and use it.