Networking or Bust? Four Questions Worth Asking About Your Networking Strategy

Gratitude can keep you at top of mind for referrals and leads.  So too does cheering from the sidelines, like congratulating people on LinkedIn and other social media for awards, recognition, and promotions.

.Nearly all entrepreneurs and business managers include networking on their marketing plans. Prior to the pandemic, the generic advice to those folks was to spend between eight to ten hours a week networking.[1] But the effects of the pandemic meant cancelled events and virtual platforms. Either way, the options for networking both decreased and changed. As advisors began planning for 2022, you might be asking, is networking still a worthy part of your marketing plan? Here are four questions to ask as you plan for 2022.

What is a networking strategy, and which one works for you?

A networking strategy identifies clients that you want to bring in, then draws a straight line to them through people and organizations you already have in your contacts. It usually involves some amount of research and planning to identify the best routes to the clients you want. Just like your marketing efforts consider what your potential clients read and where they go, so too does your networking strategy.

Your strategy should involve a strengths assessment, a review of your own natural style as well as identifying what resources you currently have. Strengths include relationship building skills, emotional intelligence, public speaking skills, and empathy. Your style includes whether you are better one-on-one, in an informal group or in a formal setting. Assets include an alumni network of previous employers and workspaces as well as community engagement opportunities. Finally, your networking strategy should consider whether you need to network for reasons other than client acquisition, like finding new vendors, new suppliers, hiring staff or connecting with a new mentor.

Can you acquire clients without networking?

A fair assessment of your personal strengths, existing assets and current needs might result in a surprising finding – you don’t need to attend networking events to acquire clients. A recent survey found that those who invested heavily in networking (more than six hours a week) generated nearly half of their business through referrals and networking activities. But those who didn’t spend as much time networking didn’t necessarily fail to acquire new business.

It’s tempting to think that networking is the best way to find new clients, but many who don’t network point to other avenues, like third party leads and referrals. Those that use other sources say they nurture those sources. In reality, they may spend as much time nurturing those sources as others do networking. For example, many say they spend time thanking former colleagues and others for information, tips, and advice on social media. That gratitude tends to keep them at top of mind for referrals and leads.  So too does cheering from the sidelines, like congratulating people on LinkedIn and other social media for awards, recognition, and promotions. For people that find in person networking to be awkward and uncomfortable, social media connections can prove effective at staying in touch. Others note that they use aps to help remind them to contact people, such as Contactually.[2]

And don’t forget about your own website leads and prospects. Entrepreneurs who are successful at building businesses without networking say they nurture those leads with frequent but consistent contact, like a separate newsletter that is shorter or more direct.

In an industry where everyone is a potential client, your interest and enthusiasm for your work might be better than any networking efforts. As one expert suggested, those who talk about work without talking about how busy they are often have better success rates. It’s not how busy you are that will convey confidence to clients, it’s how excited you are in other people’s successes that will make them want to be your client. The best coach is invested in their player. Being interested and genuinely excited about your client’s goals and their achievement and will spill over to generating new clients.

Don’t forget the ABCs of client generation: Always Be Collaborative. When talking about your work, don’t build your business by being negative about others in your field.

Can you work your network without networking events?

If your personal assets and style do favor networking, but your options for in-person events are limited, keep the faith. Many entrepreneurs and business owners have started making their own magic through planning social events. Some credit the website Meet Up [3] for creating social events that are industry specific. Others have found success through industry or interest groups on Facebook and Slack.[4] Others note that networking websites like LinkedIn now have groups that meet solely for social time. Finally, the good old book club can always be a winner for networking opportunities, as we covered recently.[5]  

Will virtual networking events work for your intended purposes?

If your networking strategy does call for events keep in mind that virtual group settings are forced and semi-formal. If zoom is all you have, prepare for it the same way you would prepare for in person networking – have a clear objective, be specific in what you can offer others (connections, vendors, experiences, etc.), and have your own elevator pitch down to 8 words. Publicize that you are attending on your socials before hand just as you would a live event to ensure you have people you will want to meet. Be fully present – just because you are at home doesn’t mean its time to multi-task.







These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.

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