Determine How Much Time You Can Afford to Spend
The majority of your marketing efforts should focus on direct sales. Networking takes time. You need sales and revenue a lot more than connections that may someday pay off.
Many people fall into the trap of over-networking since networking is like playing the lottery: You never know when the next connection might pay off big. Plus when you network you typically don’t hear the word “no” like you do in sales, so networking is more fun. In networking you plant seeds and hope they grow… planting and hoping are fun.
But most networking seeds don’t grow. You can make lots of connections, but you only successfully network when those connections become mutually beneficial.
Think about your current networking results. Some businesses gets lots of referrals from vendors, partners, etc. If that’s the case, spending significant time on networking probably makes sense. If you get very few referrals — even though you work hard to create those connections — either your approach is wrong or you’re in a business where referrals are less likely.
Here’s an example. In law school most lawyers are taught to network with their local bar but those efforts rarely pay off. A friend of mine is a lawyer and spent years attending Bar Association events, having dinner with other lawyers, basically networking his butt off… but the only referrals he received were cases other lawyers didn’t want.
Good lawyers keep the good clients for themselves; they’re not going to dole any out to those (lawyers) less fortunate.
So he took another approach. He does a fair amount of real estate work and decided to network with local real estate professionals instead. But he didn’t just send a letter and a card: He referred a few of his clients to one of the more successful local agents. She appreciated the gesture and sent some work his way.
Mutually beneficial: He needs clients, she needs a lawyer who will delivers on time since hanging on to a closing date is often the bane of an agent’s professional existence.
Mutually beneficial is your goal too. Otherwise business networking is a waste of time.
So how much time should you spend? Twenty minutes a day or a couple of hours a week.
Feel you have plenty more time on your hands? Fine. Use that time to sell.
I know twenty minutes a day doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but if you identify the right targets, segment them appropriately and provide something of real value, a few minutes a day will pay off a lot more than the time you currently waste collecting business cards, playing golf, and no-purpose schmoozing.