Social media and online marketing is important, but one-on-one networking still needs to happen. However, you don't have to be everything to everyone. Translation: You don't have to attend every chamber or networking group function. The key to networking is to "network with a purpose." Your time is valuable, and you need to weigh your return on investment.
As a former non-profit fundraiser who never had enough time in the day (or evening), I used this strategy to hit community events/fairs that targeted potential donors/sponsors. I couldn't clone myself and be at two places at once, so I had to pick and choose what events would make the biggest impact.
Networking with a purposes aligns you with potential clients who will help grow your business (or introduce you to people who could benefit from your services and products).
Before you sign up for a networking event or trade show, ask yourself the following questions:
- What event will give me the biggest bang for my buck?
- How many people are attending?
- Where is the event held? Is it local or out of my area? Is it worth it to travel 100 plus miles if only 10 people are attending the event?
- What kind of people (demographics) are attending the event?
- Will these people be interested in my services and products?
- How much is the participation fee? (Free events are always a PLUS!)
- Do I really want to attend/participate? If your "gut" instinct tells you "no, this event just isn't for me," listen to your instinct!
- Am I prepared to market myself effectively at this particular event? (business cards, marketing materials, give-aways, etc.)
- If I attend this event, will the event take away precious time from clients and other income-producing work/activities?
You don't have to be everything to everyone, and you don't have to be at every networking event either!