Tip #1… When networking, there are three levels that comprise your target market.
- First, you have the people who buy your product/service. You always to have to make time to interact with the people who are putting money in your pocket. The minute that you begin to neglect this group is the moment that you should start planning your industry exit strategy. This group is also where you will probably find the lower level workers for your organization. If they feel as though they are being shunned by you or your organization, a grass level campaign against your company could form. Nothing formal like people picketing outside of your office but remember… bad news spreads faster than good news.
- Next, you have to network with your peers. It is a problem if you are unable or unwilling to interact with people in your industry. If your fear is that they will steal your customers or a part of your business idea then you did not do a good job writing your business plan and developing your competitive advantage. You should have confidence that your business is unique and your ability to provide quality service to your customers is a part of your foundation for success. Networking with your peers is an opportunity to learn more about trends within your industry as well as develop connections for potential collaborations. As an event planner, I have many friends that are also event planners. We often discuss projects that we are working on and brainstorm about decorating ideas. Because we each have different specialties, we are able to help each other out on events, which is beneficial because it is good to have someone with knowledge of the industry on your team. You don’t want to make these collaborations a major part of your business because that may make it difficult to establish yourself independently.
- Finally, you should be networking with those that you aspire to be like. You need to hang around people that have achieved some of the successes that you are working toward. I like going places and talking to people who are much wiser than I am because I know that I can never stop learning. Why not learn from the people who actually have something to teach. Many of us make the mistake of thinking that these people are too busy or are uninterested in the low man on the totem pole. Often this is far from the truth because these legends of the industry want to share their experiences and help the current generation transition into current leaders.
Check back next week for Tip #2… Be personable and not personal.