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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Get the Most from Your Networking Groups

by Lisa Saline

Every small business owner has the challenge of getting his or her business name known. And the array of opportunities to market a business is vast but marketing is typically expensive for the small business owner. Where large corporations can wage multimillion dollar ad campaigns, the entrepreneur has to be more selective in its battles. However, networking groups can be a very cost-effective way for one to spend their time rather than their money. Still, there are some tips that can help a small business person to maximize that time spent in their networking groups.

The first tip is to go into a networking event with a plan. The larger the group the more important is the plan. The plan should contain a goal of how many new people you are going to see. The number of new people that you can introduce yourself to is a lot easier in an open event like a Chamber of Commerce mixer, rather than a smaller membership based group we you are likely to know everyone already. Another element the plan should contain is who you are going to see. Even with the membership group where you see everybody weekly, plan to sit next to and get to know one of the members you don't know that well. Always increasing your circle.

The second tip is for membership type groups where everybody knows you and provides you leads. The tip is to understand that your purpose for attending each event is to educate. Not only do you need to educate everybody about what you do, it is more important that you concisely and precisely educate everybody about who is a good prospect for you. If you tell people that everybody is good prospect for you, that tells them nothing. But what you want to do is trigger in their mind specifics about people that can open the floodgates of leads for you. Regardless of your business, your core clientele can be segmented into different groups. For example, if you find that your customers often wear blue shirts and you tell your networking group people who wear blue shirts are good prospects for you. That will immediately trigger memories people that they have seen wearing blue shirts that they know.

The third tip is to prepare your leads early or provide them via e-mail before your weekly (or regularly scheduled meeting). This will save you a lot of time in the meeting so you can be concentrating on tips one and two above. You can always provide leads during the week when you may have more time and simply claim credit later with whatever formal procedure your networking group uses. Do not spend a lot of time in your networking groups clarifying leads that can be done via e-mail or telephone before or after the meetings.

Hopefully, by planning what you want to achieve your networking group meeting, then ready to educate your group, and prepare your leads early your time will be well spent.

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