Network Marketing Has Many Advantages! (written January, 2004)

Networking isn’t just for realtors. It’s a valuable tool for every savvy business leader. Meeting people in a variety of industries can lead to all kinds of alliances. Think about the people you know. How have those relationships enhanced your business?

No matter what kind of business you operate – whether you’re an independent contractor, store-owner, Infopreneur, professional speaker or consultant – networking can cause your business to soar to new heights.

Here are the many advantages of Networking: #1) Meet Potential Clients. No matter where you go, you have the chance to meet people who would become clients for your business. #2) Create Strategic Alliances. As you get to know someone new, you may find that you have common interests or goals. If so, suggest a way to work together. #3) Increased Word of Mouth. Some of the best advertising that money cannot buy is word of mouth. The more people who learn about you and your business, the more chance you have spread the word about your offering. #4) Develop Six Degrees of Separation. You never know where a new alliance can lead. I’ve had friendly business contacts refer me to speaking engagements, (which then led to other speaking engagements), media exposure, (which led to a slew of new clients), new business opportunities, (that generated exposure and income) and marketing campaigns, (spreading my reach with little cost or effort). Your new client could introduce you to another associate and that person could introduce you to yet another person and so on. #5) Learn Something New. Savvy business leaders know that in order to stay at the top of their game, they need to continually learn more about their industry. You have the opportunity to learn something from each person you meet. You could discover a new business process, a useful technology, an industry trend or a creative marketing strategy. #6) Challenge Yourself. When you meet someone whose level of success is higher than your own, challenge yourself to take your business to the next level. Let that person’s success inspire you to achieve more.

Here’s how to network successfully: #1) Evaluate your Handshake. This may seem like a no-brainer, but unfortunately a lot of people miss the ball on this one. Your handshake should be firm and confident without breaking bones. This is true for both women and men. #2) Watch your body language. Nothing is subtler than body language. Watch a roomful of people to see how each looks different. Confident people stand up tall, hold their heads high and often talk with their hands. People who are shy or uncomfortable cross their arms in front of them, hang their heads lows and look disinterested. Who would you rather approach? Someone who looks miserable and closed off or someone who is confident and relaxed? Watch yourself in the mirror. See how much better you look when your posture is strong and your arms are at your side. #3) Maximize the value of your business card. Make sure the information on your card is up to date and accurate. There is nothing worse than someone who hands you a card and says, “oh but my phone number has changed. Let me write it in there for you.” Even if you have new cards in order, you can purchase blank card stock at the office supply store and print some temporary cards so you always portray a professional image. You can also add value to you card by printing something on the backside such as a calendar or a list of resources. #4) Prepare an elevator pitch. You should have a 30-second sound byte that you can give whenever you need someone new. Your pitch should explain who you are and what you do and should be succinct and compelling. #5) Define your Purpose. Attending network events won’t have much value if you don’t know why you are there. Are you interested in finding clients? Locating new business partners? Define your goals clearly so you can make the most of your efforts. #6) Say Cheese.  Smiling at someone instantly puts him or her at ease. Notice that when you smile at someone, they automatically smile back. It is because it is human nature to “mirror” the other person. The added benefit is that the act of smiling has a magical power to cause a person to feel better. So if you encounter someone who is having a bad day, by smiling at them and making them smile, you have subconsciously given them a reason to like you!  #7) Crack ‘em up. Humor is a wonderful icebreaker. Avoid inappropriate jokes or comments, but do try to inject some humor into your conversations. People who are funny are naturally magnetic to others. You can still be a serious businessperson with a good sense of humor. #8) Use Small Talk. When meeting or introducing yourself to a new contact, start with small talk. Ask the contact what they do, where they live, how far they traveled to get to the event or what brought them to the event. Develop a standard list of questions you will use to start and maintain small talk with new people. #9) Keep Moving. Don’t hold up the wall or stay in one place for too long. Make the most of your networking time by moving often and ending conversations that have reached their maximum value. If you want to move on from the person you are talking to, you could say, “It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I have some other people I need to meet so I hope we can keep in touch.”  #10) Offer your business card. The best time to exchange business cards is typically near the end of your conversation. Handing the contact your card will usually prompt him to give you theirs in exchange. If this doesn’t happen automatically, simply ask.

It takes time to develop a network of business alliances, so the sooner you get started, the sooner you can reap the rewards. Treat every event that you attend as a chance to meet new and interesting people. Set a personal goal to attend at least two events each month and soon your business will flourish in new and wonderful ways.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.