By Lisbeth Calandrino—Some people talk about networking as if it were this horrible thing they must do. Others think networking is about meeting people, and they hate that. In my mind, networking is the key to success in life and in business. Networking is about meeting the right people to further your objectives.
Effective networking is not that difficult, but it does require some thought and action to achieve the desired results. It’s not just going out and meeting people; it takes a plan. Following are some tried-and-true tips to get you started:
- Find the right partners. Look for businesses that have a product or service that can augment your offerings and, hopefully, engage in community outreach. Warning: don’t work with people who don’t use social media or have a site that is lacking in followers or comments. You need a business that knows how to bring in customers and how to keep them.
- Do your research. Attend meetings where potential business partners are likely to be. For example, I recently attended a breakfast for a local women’s club. They have great programs, paid guest speakers and it’s close to my home. Events like this provide invaluable opportunities.
- Align with people who have different skills. Find people who do podcasts, have a following and can generate greater exposure for you. I have a friend who does daily podcasts that I then feature on my site.
- Look for the low-hanging fruit. Network with people who are tangentially associated with your business or industry. My experience has shown me that realtors are an easy score. Most of the large brokers have weekly meetings and are always looking for speakers. I work with a local retailer who sponsors my continuing education classes for realtors; she buys lunch or breakfast and apparently is doing great business. It works for her. All these meetings should be posted on social media; you can be sure your realtors will do the same. They’re always looking for new customers.
- Get creative. If you have a speaking engagement, I suggest you do a trade-off with your customer. When I make a presentation to a new audience, I typically get the names and emails of those who attend and tell them that I’m happy to give them a free coaching session. I work with a landlords group that wants me to speak at their meeting. In lieu of payment for my services, the group agreed to buy 20 of my books for their attendees.
There are so many opportunities to network with peers and other professionals if you know where to look. For example, look at Women of the Flooring Business (WOFB), which launched in 2019 (Disclosure: I am a founding member.) The group was initially created as a social media group with the goal to exalt female store owners while offering a platform to share best practices. It has since expanded into an impactful, grassroots community focused on female empowerment and growth within the flooring industry. What started out as just a few hundred members has swelled to more than 2,000 and moved well beyond its social media roots. The group has a dedicated website (womenflooring.com), offers member training and coaching, networking opportunities and educational retreats. WOFB also partners with other industry organizations to help spur its forward momentum.
Regardless of your business focus or specialty, always be on the lookout for valuable networking opportunities. They often pay big dividends.
Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.