Networking. I find polar opposite reactions to this word in the entrepreneurial world, and I understand both sides of the discussion.
In the end, I am in favour of networking, but usually if you have a strategy in place. If your strategy isn't working, be flexible enough to change it, but at least start with a strategy. What's your price point? Who can afford it? Where do they go? How do you engage with them there?
Who means the most to you?
In my earlier blog post, "The Real You. On Social Media?", two points I wanted to drive home were, one, that the real you is your only real differentiating element, and two, Pareto's 80/20 Principle. Networking is one aspect of business where your 80/20 assessment truly matters. Which 20% of activities (or relationships) give you 80% return? Whether 80% means more:
- Clients for your preferred service(s),
- Clients who each invest in more of your services,
- Time-, energy- or resource-savings due to greater efficiency,
You need to focus your time, energy and resources into the 20% that give you more time, energy and resources to do more of what you need and want to.
Who are your ideal clients? Who needs and appreciates what you offer more than anyone else? Who among those can afford your price point? Of those, who do you connect with most readily - personality, schedules, work ethic, geography (if applicable).
Where and how do you connect?
I began delivering social media services in 2009. Referrals and word-of-mouth were great while I was doing this part-time, but when it becomes your bread and butter, you'd better be in front of the right audience. I joined the networking circuit - some MeetUp.com groups, general entrepreneur events, conferences and trade shows with unclear targets, etc. Cheap, free and unfocused events, however, attract those who either don't know what they need or who would rather not pay. They're no one's ideal client. So where do you go?
Here are a few places that seem to be working for me, thus far:
- Exclusive networking organizations that attract your ideal client and yet invite only one professional per industry to groups.
- Conferences and trade shows that attract your ideal client and set you apart as the expert in your field.
- Examples, for me thus far: GroYourBiz, WBECanada, CompanyofWomen.
My list is a work-in-progress, but you get the point. You need a strategy. Answer the critical questions and go where you're needed, valued and 'affordable'. Men, I have not forgotten you. I simply haven't found those groups yet, but I'll keep looking.
At the end of the day, you have to decide who you're looking for and where you're willing to go to connect with them. More importantly, how much are you willing to invest in you, to connect with them? These people make up your sustainable social media community. They're worth it, right? Well, so are you.
I can recommend a few people to help you get started. Let's connect on social media (below). Subscribe to Successiory e-News for greater insights! Ready to get serious, save time and create your meaningful your social media community.