Networking can be a fun and rewarding way to build your business if you do it the right way.
If you’re just starting out or you have a way to go to build a full book of business, it’s smart to spend the better part of your time marketing yourself.
And along with speaking and creating strategic alliances, networking is one of the big three methods for doing that in the most powerful way possible … face to face.
You’re probably well served to be going to networking coffees, lunches, or having drinks with your contacts several times each month or even every week! By all means, get out there and engage with people, especially if networking is your primary active marketing strategy.
But can you overdo it? Can you devote too much time to meeting new people and developing those relationships?
Once you’re established, you kinda have to set some limits or you risk overburdening yourself.
This is especially true when you’re seen as a successful professional and you have a number of people who are requesting time with you, because they think you can be useful to them.
Sure, real networking is supposed to be about sharing to the mutual benefit of both parties, but sometimes folks just want to pick your brain. Some of that is fine. I want to help. You want to help … but be careful.
Here are couple of rules of thumb I’ve found helpful. I hope they’ll help you too.
Actively balance the amount of marketing and business development you do with how busy you are in your professional practice or business. The more clients you have and the steadier the flow, the less you do. Pretty obvious, but the main idea is that there’s a dynamic balance which requires periodic adjustment. It’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing.
Set a limit on the number of networking coffees or lunches or events you do each month. For me, it’s three. Helps keep me sane. I’m fortunate to have a full practice right now and I get a lot of referrals. That doesn’t mean I’d ever stop networking. It just means I have the flexibility to manage my opportunities more carefully. And I’m taking advantage of that.
Phone conversations are a more efficient way to connect than face to face. Of course, you have to balance the impact you get from actually being with someone vs. talking by phone, but it’s sure a time saver.
There are times when I can say to someone, I’m already booked this month, but I can talk for 30 minutes by phone if you like or I can schedule something for next month in person. Gives you some flexibility while keeping you from being overwhelmed.
Of course, I created the rule, so I can make exceptions if I meet a person I really want to get together with sooner than later or otherwise find myself with more time available for networking. But it helps to have a discipline in place.
Look, you’re a nice person. You like to honor requests. You enjoy meeting and helping people. But don’t feel as if you have to meet with everyone.
I get that you don’t want to disappoint folks. I get that you might feel as if you could be missing out if you say “no” or “later” to opportunities. The fact is you might be. But there’s only so much time in a week and only so much of you to go around. Sometimes you just have to decline or defer.
It’s okay. I’m giving you permission.
One last thing. Never forget the prime directive of all marketing.
Make sure the people you’re talking to are in your target market or work with your target market.
If you don’t, you’ll be wasting your time … no matter how much networking you do.