Networking is an integral part of growing a profitable business for solo entrepreneurs and small business owners alike, particularly in the early stages. However, most small business owners put far too little forethought and planning into determining what is required to build ‘intentional’ relationships that can deliver positive returns to their businesses.
Now what is meant by building intentional relationships?
As its definition depicts, intentional is something that is done by conscious design or purpose, something planned. Likewise in networking, building intentional relationships should by design have an intended purpose that produces positive results. How should you develop intentional relationships that can help you achieve your business goals?
Here are some thoughts that will help you more effectively build intentional relationships through your business networking efforts …
1. Develop a networking plan. Given your schedule, how many networking groups can you actively participate in and be effective? What types of groups represent a good match for your particular business – i.e. local Chambers, industry associations, meet up groups? Will active participation in these groups help raise your business profile and get you in front of more success-minded business owners and targeted prospects?
2. Establish measurable goals and objectives. These measurable goals should include leads, referrals, new clients, strategic partners and revenue, over a predetermined time period. Keep in mind that the true cost of networking is $35K to $40K per group when you factor in all related costs, including your time. What is a reasonable ROI target that should be established for this investment?
3. Do your research upfront. Before attending the first meeting, learn as much as you can about the group from current members, web sites, attendance rosters, etc. Based on the group composition, is it a good fit for the business? If it’s a category exclusive group, is the slot open for your business category?
4. Know your intended audience. Every networking group’s membership can be segmented into four categories – clients, partners, suppliers and DNA’s (Does Not Apply). Determining how much time to devote to each of these categories will be critical in achieving your networking goals and building profitable new business relationships.
5. Connect your message with your audience. This is a subject I could spend hours on, but won’t in this article for the sake of time. But let me say this, your 30-second introduction sets the tone for the relationship, so don’t just get up there and “spray and pray”. Prepare what you want to say and how you want to say it in advance; write it down, edit, time it (no more than 23-24 seconds) and practice until you are comfortable with the content and the delivery before you go live.
6. Build upon the relationship by staying engaged. One of the first things I encourage new coaching clients to do is to eliminate the words “I am” from their vocabulary when it comes to building profitable business relationships. Stay engaged with prospective clients and partners by keeping the focus on their business opportunities and challenges. You can then determine how to move these intentional relationships forward as they evolve from initial 1-on-1 meetings to much more substantive business discussions.
Business networking is not synonymous with socializing. It’s not about making new friends or just building relationships. Effective business networking is synonymous with profitability and growth. It is about fully exploring ways to profitably grow your business through purposeful planning, and building intentional relationships with other success-minded entrepreneurs and business owners to achieve better overall performance and sustainable results.
COPYRIGHT © 2011 John Carroll