Networking and other business promotional activities, whether self-generated when you for example speak to the local Rotary Club, or engineered by a PR specialist who gets you a quote in the New York Times, serve to make you known to those who might use your services. The next step in the continuum is to create conditions that encourage prospects to become clients.
Effective PR and self-promotion showcase you as an expert. Mine the benefit by reinforcing your position as a source of valuable and timely information. Rather than just making the rounds at networking events as a way to cash in on your notoriety, accumulating piles of business cards from random “contacts” as you go, focus instead on developing meaningful relationships that have the potential to deliver billable hours.
Join a LinkedIn group and trade relevant information with peers who share a common affiliation by starting discussions and/or commenting on others’ discussions. Peruse the Answers Forum and weigh in on the sometimes compelling questions put forth by LinkedIn members from around the world.
Demonstrate that you are a knowledgeable professional who is willing to dispense information that could benefit others. You may be invited to have an off-line discussion and that may lead you to a client. It happened for me a couple of months ago.
When you step into the role of teacher/speaker, by all means meet and greet session attendees following the program. Engage those whom you meet and aim to deepen interactions beyond the mere trading of business cards.
In order to reap the benefits that accrue from your PR / promotional strategy, you must work for your network so that your network will work for you. Ivan Misner, chairman of the networking organization BNI International, recommends that while in conversation with a new contact, ask what business challenges he/she is confronting right now. This communicates genuine interest and guides your follow-up with that individual, with either an introduction or information. It’s an excellent way to make people want to know you.
Help can be easy to give. Forwarding the link to an article that addresses a subject likely to be of interest is a savvy way to demonstrate that others’ needs are important to you. The recipient is invariably flattered and will appreciate both the info and your thoughtfulness. Selective, individual forwarding of online resources adds value and elevates networking to relationship building. Post links to articles that address subjects of interest to a wider audience onto FaceBook and Twitter.
Seek to build a diverse network of relationships, professional and personal. Be available to connect with people in fields where you may not expect to find clients, with people of different socio-economic or educational backgrounds and from various ethnic, religious or racial backgrounds.
Not only do we not know where or under what circumstances we will meet our next client, but a diverse network of relationships exposes us to different ways of evaluating and tackling our challenges and may also help us to discover unexpected opportunities. Reaching out and extending oneself beyond the usual parameters is good for business.
Thanks for reading,