I became a student of how to effectively network at business functions when I met my good friend Mac McIntosh in 2001.
Mac, I discovered, was the consummate face-to-face networker and was a joy to watch. When I bumped into him at local marketing events, he would be quick to introduce me to influential people in the room.
Instead of handing out a business card, Mac always had something of value — a copy of his newsletter, his little calendar card you can tuck into your wallet, etc.
Most important, he always amazed me with the details he remembered about people.
I remember thinking, “Man, I want to be like him!”
So I read lots of books, such as Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty and Endless Referrals.
I repurposed my online newsletter articles to make them look like pages from a magazine and would hand those out versus my business card. I even took my online newsletter and made it a print publication for a couple of years — and would hand that out, too. (It also made a great direct mail piece.)
I got to know people and tried hard to connect faces with names. (That’s my one failing. I don’t remember people’s names but I always seem to remember their details.)
I made myself useful and volunteered for committees.
It worked. I went from not knowing a single soul when I moved to the east coast in 1998 to having the extensive network I enjoy today.
You can find lots of information about social media and the new marketing rules, but here is the one simple truth:
The same good manners you used when you networked face-to-face still hold true when you network online.
- Be polite and charming.
- Have a firm handshake.
- Look people in the eye.
- Be generous and introduce people to others.
- Become known as someone who refers people to others — it will come back to you in spades.
- Don’t interrupt the conversation in order to talk about yourself.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Be helpful by directing people to information / resources.
- Dress appropriately.
- Know your alcohol limits — i.e. don’t embarrass yourself.
- Hand write your thank-you notes — people will remember this thoughtful detail.
- Don’t air your dirty laundry or speak ill of others.
A good rule of thumb for being an effective online networker is this: if you wouldn’t do it, say it, or wear it at an offline business function– or if your mother wouldn’t approve — then don’t do it online.
Do you have tips for successfully networking online? Post them here.