From a Premier Design perspective, networking is a great way of generating new business, keeping in touch with existing clients and also for discovering new suppliers.
Personally, I tend to keep my networking down to a few regular, but high quality events. This allows me to grow my network of contacts and connections organically. It’s not my thing to collect business cards and bombard people with sales emails and demands for business and/or meetings. Believe me, it’s happened to me on numerous occasions, and probably the worst offenders are business “coaches” from franchises. Pain in the arse!
I tend to nurture relationships with people that I like, having a chat initially about what they do, the kind of business they’re looking for (it’s the reason we’re all there, after all!), and think about the connections that I can possibly make for them.
I could probably be more selfish, but it’s not in my nature.
With regards to keeping in touch with clients, it’s surprising how many I actually meet when I’m out and about! It’s great to catch up at events, and sometimes I’ll ask clients if they’re going to an event, in order to have a conversation in a neutral arena. Also, I quite often find myself introducing one client to another, especially if there’s some synergy between businesses. This aspect I find very rewarding.
Networking has been very good for Premier Design over the years, but it needs to be remembered that it’s a ‘slow-burner’. Something that does take a while to bear fruit. Once it does though, we’ve found that we’ve retained those clients, but this comes as a result of the way that we take care of our customers.
It’s got to be remembered that if you walk the walk, you need to talk the talk. If you promise something, you need to deliver it. Consistently.