I was talking to a franchisee on Saturday (yes, Saturday) who had recently been through my sales and marketing programme.
Naturally I asked him how things were going.
‘Oh, pretty good,’ said he. ‘But I’ve stopped networking because it just doesn’t work.’
This came as a bit of a surprise to me because I know that networking does work and brilliantly well, so I thought I’d explore a bit further.
‘Well,’ said the franchisee, ‘I went networking a couple of times and didn’t get anything out of it so I decided not go anymore. Besides you see the same people week in, week out so I couldn’t really see the point.’
Ah, that explains it. He was a Viking. Rape and pillage of the group was his goal and networking just doesn’t work like that.
I know it sounds like an awful cliché but remember Kennedy’s speech: ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
Networking is the same: if you go networking with the express aim of getting as much as you can from the other group members then the inverse will happen. I call it the Law of Inverse Marketing and Persuasion (LIMP, for short). That reminds me of a joke about the male contraceptive pill… you put it in your shoe and it makes you limp.
However, if you go networking with the express intention of helping others out in business by passing referrals, making connections and generally adding value to the group, then you’ll get stuff back. Now, all this takes time and effort and just because you add value today doesn’t mean that you’ll get immediate benefit, but it will come.
So what about the second argument, the one about seeing the same people?
Well, it’s true, but there are two reasons why this is a good thing.
Firstly, if you go to lots of networking groups you become one of the core networkers in your territory. Clearly, you are after new business and business is important to you… people are more likely to refer. Think about it the other way round. If you only go to one group, people think you’re playing at it and probably going because you feel you have to.
The second reason to go to many events is based on familiarity. Let me explain what I mean.
I trawl up and down the M6/M74 a lot… I know pretty much every inch of it between Birmingham and the turn off to the A702. I usually travel the route sometime late afternoon and into the evening. This week I did it Sunday afternoon. Same route, but I saw so many things I’d never noticed before.
Networking is the same. You can see the same people at one networking group and not really pay them too much attention… then they (and you) turn up at a different place and all of a sudden you notice them. It’s still networking, it’s still them, but it’s a different context.