GrowBiz host’s note: GrowBiz has run a number of articles on growing a customer base, finding partners and public relations. Many of the experts cited old-fashioned networking as critical to success in all these areas of growing a small business. I reached out to an expert in this for her thoughts and advice on networking. In fact, Lauren is the founder of Networking Maverick.
By Lauren Marsicano
In our increasingly interconnected world, it’s easy to believe you have a world of friends and connections at your fingertips and forego more traditional live networking events when you are building a business, a book of business, or a professional network. But no matter how connected you may think you are with your friends or followers, all that can be taken away in an instant, leaving you with no network or connections if you’ve failed to develop them outside the DM (Direct Messages).
It’s undeniable that having a social media and online presence is essential for everyone, from a 9-5 professional to a serial entrepreneur (a LinkedIn profile is recommended at a minimum). The rise of social apps and online collectives allows us to begin developing our social credibility, which is extremely important as I think the first thing most people do when they make a connection is to “Google” them. But social networking is deceptively easy. Double tap a pic on Insta, send a DM on Twitter, and voila!, you believe you’ve developed an actual relationship. This isn’t always the case, and many influencers are seeing the consequences of neglecting a physical connection with their audience.
Networking IRL (In Real Life) is a muscle that needs to be trained and developed, especially, if you’ve never done it before. The biggest mistake I see networking newbies make is attending the wrong events with the wrong plan (or worse, no plan at all!). Your network of connections can be leads for jobs and referrals, or they could provide you with access to a wider audience or insight into different industries.
More likely than not, your biggest supporters and mentors will come from real-life meetings and develop over time with continued nurturing efforts, like coffees and in-person meets. With this in mind, it’s important to have a plan of action, but every great networking plan starts with knowing who you should be targeting (your target connection). Ideally, you should only be attending events that your target connection is attending or an event that your target connection’s target connection is attending. This is a duel-layered approach that requires you to really take the time to identify that target connection and be able to describe them, their demographics, and habits in detail. Thankfully, social media is extremely helpful in this research!
While I don’t suggest cyber-stalking, I do recommend you looking at the profiles of some people that you believe are an ideal connection. What events are they interested in on Facebook? What are they posting about on their feeds? If they own a business or have worked in a profession, look at the makeup of the audience that they are trying to connect with online. Chances are, you will be able to find several events and meetups this way, and it is likely that many more of your ideal connections will be attending those events as well.
Once you’ve committed to an event, set yourself a reasonable goal, like making three new, meaningful connections. I never recommend the “spray-and-pray” method of networking, where you spray out your cards and pray someone calls back. Instead, try to have a deeper conversation with your three connections, and the easiest way is to find something you have in common and then to add value to the connection’s life. This could be connecting them with an ideal referral, providing them information on an upcoming event, or simply offering to take them out for a coffee to connect further. Adding value to the other person’s life or business will really show you aren’t there just to sell or make a superficial connection, and they are more likely to become a valuable part of your network. Once you make the connection, make sure to follow-up! Handwritten cards really do stand out in the age of the WiFi greeting cards and invites.
For more tips, you can check out my YouTube Channel Networking Maverick or email me at Lauren@NetworkingMaverick.com. If you’re in South Florida, let’s connect! The first cup of coffee is on me.
Lauren Marsicano, Esq. is the founding partner of Miami-based boutique law firm Marsicano + Leyva PLLC and has worked with global Fortune 100 companies like Bank of America. Outside of her law practice, she is the founder of the Networking Maverick community, where she helps her clients build relationships to turn their network into net-worth.
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