We work with a lot of business owners and professionals and we often get asked questions about networking such as; how often should I be out networking? Where should I be networking? What are some dos and don’ts of networking? It’s interesting that as business owners, we know we need to network, but there are many unknowns with networking –probably the biggest unknown is, how do we measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking?

Well, we know that there is a huge return on investment with networking that surpasses any other marketing tactic on the planet. Yes, marketing your business online, through your website, email marketing and social media are all important and work very well. However, marketing online along with meeting face-to-face with people, can be a winning combination for success! Networking is also a very cost effective and natural way to attract new business. So, here are a few quick tips and best practices for networking:

  1. Walk into the networking space with a smile. This can be difficult if you feel nervous walking into a room full of people you don’t know. That said, if you can manage a smile and keep your head up, as you walk in, that’s a great start! As human beings, we are naturally attracted to, and want to work with people who are approachable, look confident, but most importantly, those who have a smile on their face. You will likely feel more drawn to go and say “hello” to the people who are smiling, who have their head up and are looking at who they will talk to first. They tend to exude a certain trustworthiness and are more likely to be conversational with you when you meet them as well.  So next time you enter a room, take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back and smile…notice what happens!
  2. Interact with tact and be sensitive to others. Have you ever been at a networking event and had someone come up, say “hi” and before you can respond, they jam a business card into your hand? They may have even interrupted your conversation with someone else. This can leave a very negative impression and if you’re like us, it’s very unlikely you will ever reach out to that person to do business with them. Before walking up to someone to start a conversation, be tactful. If two people are talking shoulder to shoulder, that is an indication that they are open to others joining their conversation. If two people are face-to-face, and seem to be in deep conversation, that is not an invitation for you to join their conversation or interrupt them. Find another friend to have a chat with in the meantime.
  3. Be intentional when you are out networking. The best way to connect with someone, is to smile, say hello and say your name. Hold out your hand to shake theirs. Avoid the “So, what do you do?” question. This is a cop-out and can be off-putting. Instead, warm up the conversation and ask a few questions; how are you? How did you get started in your business? I’m always curious about this. Who or what inspired you to start your own business? These are all great conversation starters, as they can prompt other questions and a much deeper conversation. It also lets the other person know you are interested in them and their business. Usually when you make a strong connection, that person will ask for your business card and possibly a meeting. Finally, set the intention to meet with just 2 – 3 people and have a meaningful conversation with each of them.
  4. Make sure you are responsive. After attending a networking event, you have likely collected a couple of business cards, and quite likely you exchanged business cards with other people. So, the next step and the key to building relationships, is to reach out to them and thank them for a great conversation. You may want to invite them to continue your conversation over coffee. Also, if someone reaches out to you, make sure you respond in a timely manner. This is part of building rapport and trust with that other individual, and it starts with being responsive –so email them back within a day whenever possible! Oh, and a quick note about business cards, be very careful about adding someone to your mailing list. It may not serve you to do so. It’s always best to invite them to join your newsletter, or better yet, allow them to peruse your website, and have them join your newsletter by choice!

We have found that in most cases, when you are out networking with like-minded people, it’s likely that you will make a connection with at least 1-2 people, and they will become a client or refer someone to you, if you have followed the steps above. Be relatable, friendly, listen carefully, be curious and for goodness sake, unless they ask, do not start selling to them!  They will become agitated and will look for a way to leave the conversation. You haven’t earned their trust yet, let alone their business! Networking is not for making the sale. It’s intended to connect with others and build rapport.

How often should you network? Well, especially in the beginning when you are just starting out with your business, we suggest getting out to at least three networking events each week. This will give you an opportunity to check out a few different groups, see how you feel, and whether they are a fit or not.

How does the ROI work? Once you find a couple of groups that feel right for you and your business, choose two to three networking groups that you can attend regularly and stick with them. Be patient, as it takes time to build the know-like-and-trust factor and the more consistently you attend, the better you become at sharing stories, examples of how you can help which showcases you and your business brilliantly, helping you get good traction. If you stick with a group and show up to each meeting, you should start to get the return on your investment of time, money and energy with clients, either directly from those groups or referrals from them. It is about giving, as much as it is receiving though, so be sure to meet with other businesses within those groups to learn about them and their business, and look for ways that you can support and refer each other!

Where should you network?  There are a lot of great networking groups around, including Professionals in Partnership, a local group of which we have been members for a few years now. There are BNI Chapters all over the world, and we highly recommend that you check out your local Chamber of Commerce as well. For female entrepreneurs and professionals, there is also FemCity, another well organized networking group. We have found that there is a great variety of business owners and professionals who attend these meetings and events. Also, your Chamber of Commerce will likely offer a variety of times in which you can network from breakfast meetings, to Lunch n’ Learns, to Business After 5 networking in order to suit all types of businesses. If you are a great speaker, they even offer speaking opportunities to do a presentation on a topic of interest. This is great for visibility and helping others get to know more about what you do and how you can help them!

We hope you found this post helpful, and that you have more insight on how to measure the return on investment (ROI) of networking. Remember to smile when you enter the room. Be curious. Ask questions. Show up consistently. Connect. Build relationships and refer other businesses –repeat. The business will come.

Please comment or reach out to us anytime. We love hearing from you!

Penni & Heather

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency

Tel: 705.302.3386 | meow@cheetahfusion.com | www.cheetahfusion.com

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So much of what we do or want to do is about mindset. Think about waking up early. How much of that is about mindset?  I need to exercise or I want to exercise because I know how it benefits me.  Mindset.  I need to start eating healthier or I know eating healthier will boost my energy and help me feel great.  Mindset. I want my business to be successful, but I’m not sure what is holding me back? Or, I want to be successful, so I will start exploring new avenues to see if I can get better traction in my industry. Mindset. The key to changing your mindset is to look at what’s possible, versus staying in the problem. Being in discovery versus feeling discouraged or stuck.

What does it take to accomplish your goals?  Let’s take for instance, a professional athlete. They are focused. They know what they need to do to win a race and it’s more than just running.  In order to become a professional, top athlete, there are many components to staying focused that their coach will help them understand about what their body needs to maintain their strength, endurance, healthy and equally important -a positive mindset. In business, it’s not that different.  Yes, you do need to have goals to work towards, otherwise what’s the point? That said, in order to meet or exceed your goals, it’s more than just setting goals. It’s about positive self-talk, self-management and believing in yourself, that you CAN accomplish the goals you have set and stay focused.

So, what gets in our way?  Well, we have been working with people for years and we would like to share three factors that we feel can affect one’s mind-set and hold them back from achieving their goals:

  1. Distractions – Something that we have been reflecting on a lot over the last few years, is how is it that one individual can remain laser-focused and make BIG things happen, while another individual seems to be pulled in multiple directions and never seems to get as far in business or their career? We believe that it comes down to allowing distractions to take over. Distractions come in many forms in business; taking on additional projects, even when you have lots to keep you busy. This is usually due to boredom or trying to be all things to everyone. However it usually results in spreading oneself too thin and exhaustion. Same goes for trying to “do it all” and wearing too many hats –something has got to give. So, look for ways to stay focused, such as outsourcing the things that you may not necessarily enjoy or be good at like; bookkeeping, marketing, responding to emails and phone calls. These things can either be accomplished by a Virtual Assistant or a professional who can do it in half the time and will get you results!
  2. No clear vision – have you ever built a house? Or renovated your home? Building a business is kind of like that. It’s important to understand and develop your business with products, services and revenue streams that people want and will buy, to ensure your business is viable and sustainable. You’re essentially building a “Blueprint” for your business, with everything from your foundation, to the rooftop explored and nailed. You want to ensure that your foundation consists of your company values, what you believe in (i.e.: trust, integrity, commitment, service, honesty, etc.). You want to build the cornerstones of your business, which is essentially your business model, what you offer, your expertise, how you deliver and how you make money. Your vision must be clear. It must have a purpose and a plan attached, otherwise, you will continue to spin and get caught in the weeds again and again. Find a support system, a mastermind or think tank group, or if possible a business coach or strategist to help outline your vision and develop a plan to get your business either off the ground or take it to the next level. Most businesses fail because they do not have a clear vision and a plan. There are plenty of customers out there for everyone –you just need to understand how to find them, bring them in, serve them and keep them satisfied. Business is meant to be a collaboration, no going it alone –it’s difficult to do anything alone. Find your tribe and get rockin’ your biz! Additionally, we usually recommend a mind-mapping session to help bring out your brilliant ideas and move all of that idea-clutter to paper, so that you can begin sorting and prioritizing your ideas into what makes sense for your business and what you can leave for a later date.  Again, allowing you to focus and develop a clear vision.
  3. Lack of passion – quite honestly, if you’re not passionate about your business, it’s important to step back and rethink starting or continuing with your business. People read you and your energy and if your passion has gone or isn’t there, customers and/or people in your network will know it. If your passion has simply dimmed due to circumstances, do some soul-searching and figure out where it went, what you really want and either reignite that passion and fire, or step away. The last thing you want is to spend time, money and energy on something you don’t love. If you find you are still passionate, but you’ve simply been bogged down by challenges, or going off into the weeds, join a group or mastermind, or hire a business coach to help figure out how to get back to doing more of what you love –it’s worth it, if you still love what you do. Sometimes we just get lost and think there’s no way out or we get stuck. There’s help out there… go get it and get fired up again –either about this or another business idea!!

What is the common denominator in all of the above? Mind-set. How we feel is what generates the energy or diminishes the energy for doing things. Our mind is like a machine, if it’s well maintained and the operator uses it properly, it will work very well. We need to nurture our mind-set particularly as entrepreneurs, so we don’t get stuck, by practicing positive self-talk, brainstorming with people you trust to give you objective, helpful feedback and by setting clear goals around what you want. It’s important to develop a clear vision and follow your passion in order to have a mind-set that works for you, not against you.

So, on that note, in terms of moving forward in your business, we decided we need to introduce the idea of mind-setting, rather than the old-school goal-setting method when it comes to business. This is a concept you, as an entrepreneur will definitely understand. Think about those days when you are not sure how you will pay the bills at the end of the month? Then you have a ‘brainwave’ and suddenly everything changes and you’re off and running with a brilliant idea!  Keeping a positive mind-set is so important, as it is the gateway to innovation, motivation, creativity and inspiration!  What if we applied these principals to our short-term and long-term goals? Imagine the possibilities!

Are you ready to shift from ‘goal-setting’ to ‘mind-setting’?  The difference is our experiences, our beliefs and values exist in our mind. When we believe we can achieve something, we go ahead and we do it!  Whereas, it doesn’t matter what goals you write down on paper, if you don’t believe them, it’s highly unlikely they will take off. The beauty of the mind is, we can change. We can start to map-out our goals in our mind, then using a wonderful tool called the mind-map, you can start to brainstorm, drill down on those ideas and put an action plan behind them. Curious about what a mind-map is? Give us a call or email us and we’ll show you!  It’ll blow your mind how fast mind-mapping can take you to the next level in your business. Mind-maps are your radiant thinking –coming to you in colour.  Ready to see what is possible?  Reach out to us today and we’ll take you there!

 

Cheetah Fusion Creative Agency

meow@cheetahfusion.com | 705.302.3386

Other Resources: Mind-Mapping, 1:1 Mind-Mapping, Founder’s Forum In-Person and Virtual monthly sessions.