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by John R. Ingrisano

Think of networking as mostly free, word-of-mouth, marketing.  Here are some ideas to make networking work for you:

  • Be in touch.  Thanks to email, it’s never been easier to stay connected with clients and prospects.  Send out very, very short mini-newsletters (200 words at the most) once a month or so to remind them you’re still around.
  • Be involved.  Join organizations — Lions, Optimists, etc. —  in your local community.  The personal and professional relationships are priceless.
  • Polish your elevator talk.  Be prepared to tell people who you are and what you do in 30 seconds, the time it takes to complete an elevator ride.  Plus, put a summary on the back of your business card.
  • Promote others…no strings attached.  Don’t contact other business people in the community only when you want something.  Be generous with your time in talking up and recommending other quality people.
  • Send out calls for help. When you need advice – whether seeking a recommendation for a good book or advice with a business problem –send out an email to a very select group (the members vary depending on the topic) and ask them for help. The results may surprise you.  (The most effective words to get people to help you:  “I have a problem and I wonder if you would help.”)
  • Be selective.  Don’t waste your time on people with no talent, no work ethic or no understanding of the concept of a two-way relationship.  Also, only endorse people you are confident can deliver. Recommending an unreliable associate will reflect poorly on you.
  • Cultivate one-on-one relationships with quality people.  Example:  Schedule 15-minute phone calls each month or quarter with key business associates you do not see regularly. Just visit, letting the conversation range from business to your families to common interests.
  • Invite three or four business associates or other key men and women in you community to become members of your board of directors.  These men and women may be outside your industry, but are key members of the community (either local or virtual).  Meet quarterly over breakfast or via teleconference.  Pick their brains and ask for advice on specific and general business situations. You pay them back by serving on their boards.

Networking works. It’s inexpensive and builds business by building relationships, which makes it a perfect marketing and client-building tool.  Make it work for you.

The bottom line: Work hard, make money, have fun, and network your way into building a large, quality client base. — JRI

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