Networking: Developing a Balanced Strategy
Something happened a few weeks ago that really got me thinking about the importance of networking, and more importantly, developing a solid strategy for it. I was at an event, and I was introduced to a group of college students from a local design school. I talked with them for a while, and before I left, I gave them each my business card. In design, like many fields, connections are crucial. The people you meet today can open a door for a job or project tomorrow. By giving them my card, I was offering myself as a connection and resource–knowing they will eventually graduate with the goal of finding a job.
After I left, I thought to myself whether I’d hear from any of those students. Unfortunately, I doubted it, and so far I’ve been correct in my assumption. This really made me think. What happened to the traditional rules of networking–to following up after a meeting, sticking your foot in the door, and creating a memorable connection? Are these rules obsolete in a society whose natural, everyday forms of communication, connecting, and maintaining relationships are online?
I don’t think so. I think they’re
more important than ever.
We talk with our clients about the importance of developing a solid strategy for marketing their businesses–both online and off. The same applies for marketing ourselves as individuals. Whether you’re a student about to embark into the professional world, a professional looking for new business, or a seasoned business veteran, we each need a strong, balanced strategy for networking.
So, how do we strike a balance between online and in-person networking to create a well-rounded approach? The key is to realize that there’s an appropriate place for both, and one or the other will be a better fit in certain instances. You can’t discount the value of a face-to-face meeting when it comes to making a first impression, forming a new partnership, or presenting a new idea. Conversely, your online social networking is great for staying top of mind, staying in touch, or even for generating leads.
There’s a lot of chaos in the online world these days, and it’s important and necessary to separate yourself with more personal, memorable connections. Talking in-person or even over the phone can be necessary to stand out. Successful networkers have found a balance of both–utilizing the tools available online for convenience, speed, and efficiency but relying on personal, in-person contacts in those cases where an impression must be made.
Unsure where to start on either front? Here are a few tips for standing out both online and in-person:
Aim for real connections. Form real, memorable connections by remembering details from past conversations and meetings.
Mind your P’s and Q’s. Always ere on the side of etiquette and politeness. You only get one first impression, so use it wisely.
Remember that it’s a small world. Don’t talk poorly about your colleagues or company. It only reflects poorly on you.
Be prompt with your actions. If information is exchanged, don’t wait too long to respond with a “nice to meet you” email or phone call.
Be proactive. Unless it’s specifically discussed, always aim to make the first contact after meeting someone new.
Carefully select your outlets. Online networking can take off quickly, so choose your tools and determine your strategy in advance.
Be proactive with your online presence. Stay top of mind with someone by following them on Twitter, commenting on their blog articles, etc.
Audit your content daily. Make sure your content is appropriate and relevant to your personal and professional image and goals you’re trying to achieve.
Be dependable. Online networking tools are most effective when you actively maintain, respond, and post fresh content.
Use online tools to your advantage. Online tools are great for finding new connections and can provide an excellent transition to an in-person meeting.