Ann Marie and I are constantly networking to grow our business, whether it be at formal networking groups, having coffee with people we meet, or via social networking and our blog.  Our business is based on 100% referrals, which means that we have to find the balance between business development and being “out there” with potential lead sources and clients. 

The dilemma it creates is balancing the opportunity cost of time spent on billable client work vs. the potential opportunity of new business.  Luckily, there are two of us, so we can divide the responsibilities.  Back in September, Ann Marie wrote a blog entry “Active Network vs. Actively Networking”, and she outlined some of the key elements for creating connections between people and for connecting with people.  But you still need to make the time to be an effective “networker”.  When you are running your own small business, this time can be very precious, so you need to make the most of the time you have.

In the St. Louis area, it seems that there are ample opportunities to network in groups.  I have participated in many of them, and I have seen many of the same people at various events. They often ask us how we can manage to be at all of these places, yet keep a good work/life balance.  Since there are two of us, we can divide the networking and business development responsibilities to be most effective with our time, and we have developed 3 good rules to manage our networking opportunities.

Whether you are looking for your next job opportunity or trying to build your business, as Ann Marie and I are, here are a few tips that can help you make effective use of your limited time:

1.) You can’t be everywhere – Many networking events are on the same days or same time so you have to be selective as to where you can get the highest return on investment.  Plus, it can get expensive to go to all the events, and you are diluting your impact.

2.) Manage your contacts – Enter business cards into your database/address book/social media network within a few days after you meet them. This way the connection remains fresh in your mind as well as the other persons.

3.) Have a “cup of joe” – Meet people for coffee when you can and schedule a month in advance.  Coffee is easy and non-committal and you don’t have to see everyone you meet in the next week.

We book things a month in advance and it makes it easier for us to schedule and not cancel those meetings, because that is rude.  So don’t be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people you need to connect with in order to accomplish your goal.  By following a good networking strategy, you can build your business or find that new job, and make contact with people that can benefit you in the long run!

One thought on “Networking for New Business

  1. Isn't this the truth Ed… sometimes I find myself so busy working in my business, and no time working on my business… and other times it is the other way around. I have found it beneficial to pick a few small networking groups and truly commit to them for the long term. Creating deep relationships with the people at these meetings instead of many, more shallow relationships.

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