Last week I posted part 1 in a 3 part series about where you go to put your networking skills (or ambitions) to practice. The idea of the series of posts was inspired by my paralegal/legal assistant, who I asked, “what would you want to know about networking?” I like to make any entry about networking goal oriented.
I usually find people network in a business setting for 3 key things (a person’s goal for networking):
1) Job – (what I blogged about last week)
With that in mind, this week I am continuing with part 2, about finding your networking opportunity in order to build a business.
Where To Find Clients
If your goal is to find clients then your best avenue for networking, as with finding a job, is to be in front of as many decision makers as possible. As I mentioned last week a decision maker can be a president, manager, supervisor, people who have the authority spend their company’s money (the “power of the purse” if you will).
So where do I like finding these people? Here is a listing (and notice there are similarities to where you network to find job opportunities):
1) Alumni Associations – Many undergraduate and graduate alumni associations have events which bring out a myriad of people. They are not always in your particular industry, but I love alumni associations for easy access to people who might be 20 years or so my senior and may be potential decisions makers. By the way, I exclude “young” alumni groups as the decision makers are usually not “young” anymore (don’t judge me, it’s just an observation). Here you have to shared school experience which may lead to successful prospecting. I like this approach most amongst undergraduate alumni associations.
2) Conference – I have written about this previously. Conferences are more often than not who’s who of decisions makers (depending on the industry). I love positioning myself in high traffic areas, not necessarily sitting in one panels or presentations, and introducing myself to people. My biggest weapon is to hang out near phone charging stations or power outlets. Influencers are frequently needing to re-charge. This is a great, innocuous way to meet people. Also, I love the fact that conferences mean people have name tags. It’s an open invitation to chat, and if you can see the company they are with, you might even be able to qualify the lead before you spend too much time chatting.
3) Meetups – Once again, I have to preach how good a resource meetup.com is. Everyone who goes to a meet up is there to network. If you are looking for clients, find meetups where you might run into people who run those companies. In the tech world there are often “co-founder” meetups where people will often look to hire developers for equity or money or both (just one industry example). I attend small business oriented meetups. These are a boon for business!
4) Business Leagues – What is a business league? Think chamber of commerce or peer groups like one we have in Austin called the Young Mens Business League. These organizations have frequent networking events and mixers, as well as galas. People in these groups I tend to find, have more interest in doing business with you the more frequently they see you. Pick a league or two, be a frequent attendee of events, and maybe even an ambassador. You’ll have great access to a number of prospects!
As with finding a job, the above list is not exhaustive, but I like bringing up some ideas on where you might find your next best opportunity to network for a job. Do you have some suggestions? Please comment. And watch for part 3 next week!