Recently I was being interviewed about owning a design business and how we have successfully built a brand and grown the business (and the profits) year after year.
About halfway through the interview the conversation turned to clients and client attraction — how to get clients, where to find clients, and how to keep clients — and inevitably we started discussing networking.
After all, no one can hire you, buy from you, or learn from you if they don’t know you exist. So you must market your business, get out from behind your computer, and network with others. You must share with other people what you do!
The problem is that a lot of business owners, especially designers view networking as not-working, and believe that if you are not working, you’re are not getting paid. So instead they sit behind their computers working and tweeting, and waiting for someone to hire them. But the reality is that networking is the cornerstone of growing a successful business. Through networking you can expand your network, build strong relationships, find strategic partners, find clients, grow as a business owner, and more.
Networking Helps Business Grow Quickly
Networking is an investment of time and money in your business, your future growth, your network, and your success. They key is to invest in networking in the right places. But how do you know if you are networking in the right place? How do you know if you networking is doing it’s job? How do you know if your networking is a good investment?
In the following common networking scenarios, I’ll show you why some business owners who are actively networking still suffer from not having enough clients.
- A professional public relations consultant networking at their local public relations association
- Freelance graphic designers networking at design conferences
- WordPress consultants networking at WordCamps
- Making connections in your industry and starting/building relationships with potential referral partners, strategic partners, and resources
- Making key connections and developing relationships with possible business partners
- Scouting potential talent to grow your team and your business
- Increasing your knowledge, skills, and expertise in your industry and growing as a professional
- Re-energizing your passion and love for what you do
Networking at “in-industry” events, conferences, seminars, and workshops will definitely benefit your business, but if they are the only networking events you invest in, you can still suffer from not having enough clients because…
NOT GOOD FOR:
- Connecting with potential clients
- Starting conversations and opening doors with those who can/may hire you and pay you
- Expanding your profits and closing more sales (as a result of networking)
- Marketing your services, products, and programs
Go Where Your Prospects Are
The key to investing in networking that starts conversations with potential clients, opens doors to future work, and builds relationships with people who will actually pay you, is to go where your clients are.
- Know who you want to do business with / what kind of clients you want to have
- Figure out where they go to networking and learn and improve their skills
- Go the same events they go to
For example: If you are a freelance graphic designer who loves working as a subcontractor for PR and marketing firms, your local public relations association meetings or local marketing associations meetings would be a great place to meet and build relationships people who work for the firms you want to subcontract for.
Here are a few simple questions to help you determine if you’re networking in the right places:
- Why are you networking? Do you need clients? Partners? Employees?
- Assess your current networking situation. Do you need to make a shift in where you are investing your time, energy and money? Are you achieving your goals?
- Are you networking with peers in your industry or are you networking with potential clients?
- If getting clients is your goal, how many potential clients attend the networking events you are attending? Could the ratio be better at a different event?
- How is the networking event benefiting you, your business, or your brand?
- Are the networking groups you have been attending still the best groups to attend based on your future goals?
Now, what about you? Has networking helped your business? Have you had to adjust your networking strategy as your business grew? I’d love to hear your story or thoughts below…