5 Networking Event Mistakes to Avoid

Most business professionals encounter networking events at some point in their career. Sometimes they run smoothly and other times they’re just plain awkward. Networking requires skill and is often time-consuming. Rather than giving up on it completely, though, our ActionCOACH team is here to help. Increase the value of these events and walk away with more contacts by avoiding these five networking event mistakes.

1. You don’t have a strategy

The opportunity is there, but are you leveraging it? It’s best to approach a networking event with a plan in mind. Mapping out your objective, you can then assess the actions that need to take place. Are you looking for business partners? What about possible leads? Once you identify what you’re after, you can begin connecting the dots as to the people you’re looking to meet.

Identify which organizations, activities, conferences, and events your target contacts participate in and prioritize those opportunities. Put yourself in the right place at the right time, and it’ll be easier to form the right connections.

2. You’re focused on selling

Let’s be truly honest for a moment. Do you enjoy someone sales pitching you when you’re trying to relax and socialize? Fellow professionals can easily spot an agenda during a networking event. Instead, focus on authenticity and personalize the conversation. Ask them about their industry and personal brand. Learning more about them rather than selling, allows you to win over their respect and trust.

3. You’re a chatterbox

A conversation is a two-way street. As much as you’ll want to share information about what you do. At a networking event, active listening is key. Take a moment to step back, allowing your potential contact to open up about themselves. This will give you the opportunity to gain valuable insights into their company. Ask them about the business challenges they face, but be sure not to prod too much. They’ll remember that going into the next networking event.

4. You’re not following up

Are you doing anything to follow up with potential contacts? If you’re not, you could be missing out. Brad Sugars and our team recommend that you request a LinkedIn connection as soon as possible. The secret to fostering a relationship is remaining fresh in their mind. Also, personalization is a game changer. They may receive quite a few requests so make yours stand out by including a short, memorable message in regards to the conversation you had.

5. You’re not providing them value

Networking is all about the give and take. Even if your contact isn’t quite the person you were looking for, keep them in your pocket. You never know when that connection could be valuable. Following through can transform a brief interaction into a long-lasting partnership. So if they’re not ready to work with you just yet, don’t lose hope. Instead, work on nurturing this new lead. If you discussed some of the challenges they face during the conversation you had, not only provide your contact but collaborate with them on finding a solution.

How to Hit the Target

Have you ever wondered what is the most important factor in effective marketing? Is it the dazzling new features that the product has? Is it the incredible offer? Is it how fancy or original your marketing material look?

The answer: NONE. The most important factor in effective marketing is targeting the audience you are aiming to reach. Whenever I say this, some people will react with “everybody can use my product”. Well, even if everybody can use your product, EACH one buys from you for a different reason, effective marketing is to message specific groups with specific messages that they care about, instead of a general message that slightly touches all groups.

Now the question becomes: “How do I drill down to the ideal target audience?”. If you review your current client base, you can categorize your clients in the following 4 categories:

Awesome – they spend more than average, are a pleasure to serve and never quibble about price
Basic – they are your solid clients who give you repeat businesses
Can’t deal with – they are the “squeaky wheel”, and constantly compare prices
Dead – they are the inactive customers

Which category of clients do you need for your business to grow in a healthy way? Awesome (A-grade) clients of course! Your job is to then identify some common characteristics of these A-grade clients. These can be factors such as demographics, location, what they buy or how much they spend etc. You can even be more thorough – carry out a client survey and actually ask them! You could also take the opportunity to find out what it is about you that they like, which will help you find your Unique Selling Proposition.

Once you know who your A-grade clients are, you can start to build your marketing campaign targeting those clients. There are many ways to do this but one of the simplest is the 5 ½ W’s approach.

Who do you want to target? – Be as specific as you can!

What do they want? – Which product are they interested in?

Where do you find them? – Is there a common place where most (or some) of your A-grade clients gather? Is there a magazine that most of your A-grade clients read?

When will they be looking? – Is there any time-dependent buying pattern?

Why should they take action? – What is that compelling offer that makes your clients take actions?

How are you going to communicate to them? – What medium will you choose – radio, social media, letter, telephone?

This way, you can target your future clients one by one with a clear and specific message that will make them react immediately. We call this the guerrilla marketing approach. For more about this topic, you can read “Guerrilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad-Levinson.