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Catching the Big Fish: Why Networking Matters (and How to Do it Properly)

August 8, 2019

Business networking often plays second fiddle to marketing when it comes to being seen as a serious business development tool.

Granted, it does have its relative drawbacks. While you could wage a networking campaign, the fortuitous nature of networking success makes it tricky to go out there with a concrete goal of – say, drumming up x number of leads. Analysing and tweaking ‘campaign’ performance would be trickier still.

In a sense, it’s better to think of networking as a fishing trip: You can never be quite sure exactly what – if anything – you might land. However, hitting the right water at the right time with the right gear will give you a good chance of at least netting a decent-sized catch.

While we’re here, we might as well extend the metaphor to the end of its useful limits and say that like any good fisherman, you’ll need a fair bit of patience, too.

Networking is far less of a science than its more predictable cousin, marketing. But it can be a great deal more fun. And it offers up a much broader bag of professional, competitive and personal benefits.

If the mere thought of networking buffets is enough to leave you colder than an egg and cress sandwich, first take a moment to ponder why they’re so popular.

The most obvious reason so many head to the local golf club at 7am on a drizzly Wednesday morning is the prospect of new business.

Then there’s the rich seam of advice and friendship that networking unlocks – invaluable in such a lonely calling as entrepreneurship.

And networking also offers a chance of raising personal, and business profiles in a way that’s just not possible to do online.

These and other valuable prizes are won only by networking’s most committed long-game players. With that in mind – and business cards at the ready – let’s take a look at a few tips for successful play.

No Selling

See above. You’re not marketing here. An elevator pitch is fine, but giving your new friends the hard-sell is a big no that will only make them less likely to pick up the phone to do business in the future.

Take it Offline

One of the wonderful things about networking is the chance to make real connections in a world where it’s becoming increasingly harder to do so. Don’t be tempted to think your latest LinkedIn post counts towards this week’s networking hours. It doesn’t. The networking we’re discussing here is strictly IRL, as the kids say. You can always follow up online later on.

Choose the Right Events

You’ll find plenty going on, and not all of it will be your cup of tea. Some prefer paid-up clubs where all business is referred internally, or-else. Others find this approach cultish, preferring a more informal approach. Try a few out and see which suits you best.

Actually Network

At every event, you’ll find cliques or – worse – those who turn up for the chance to neck free craft beer and pizza. (Definitely don’t be that guy). Work the room. Talk to anyone who’s standing alone. Listen to others’ conversations and don’t be afraid to interject if you have something of value to say. Talk to everyone and don’t be scared to move on even when things are going well. Learn the phrase: “It’s been great talking, I’m off to mingle a little more.” Use liberally.

Get Personal

Talk about family, hobbies and interests when you get the chance. Show that you’re not just another business card and encourage others to open up to you. It’s how lifelong friends are made.

Follow Up

So, you had a fantastic night. You’ll no doubt have a hunch which of your new friends are keepers. Now you can hit LinkedIn, send a brief hello by way of email and – if it looks like a long-term romance – arrange another meetup.

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