I recently read the following article about Networking by Maria Martino Evans, President of the Women's Business Forum. This article was in the Philadelphia Business Journal last week. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps can use some of the advice.
The Philadelphia Business Journal on February 26, 2010, named the Women's Business Forum the 10th largest networking group in the Philadelphia area. The same issue also featured this article with networking tips and success from WBF members. 9 Steps to Effective Networking It’s not all about getting leads. It’s about getting what you need to get ahead. By Maria Martino Evans President The Women’s Business ForumTM of Bucks County To paraphrase the adage about advertising, most people know networking works; they’re just not sure which networking works best. The answer is the one you target, prepare for and follow up on. Networking is first about building relationships. Business comes from those relationships when you share your talents and your challenges with others, when you are as eager to learn about others and their needs as you are to solve your own. At the Women’s Business ForumTM (WBF TM) -- in the past eight years -- we’ve seen the fruits of networking firsthand. For example: Members volunteered their time and talents in writing, web design, graphic design, finance and public relations to help Cass Forkin launch Twilight Wish Foundation, a non-profit that makes wishes come true for deserving, impoverished seniors. Since then, more than 1,200 seniors have been helped. (www.twilightwish.org) Another WBF member saw sales of her relaxation CDs triple in just six months after implementing ideas other members freely shared at a meeting (www.healthheartsoul.com). Today, Cheyenne values the people in the group not only as clients but as “a great resource for all my business and even some personal needs.” Harmony Clean, a green cleaning service in Doylestown (www.harmonyclean.org), grew from 0 to 200 clients in just three years with the support and services of other WBF members it met through networking, including branding, public relations, accounting and business management – as well as free legal advice it learned about from a WBF meeting attendee. With so many networking options, how can a business people decide which group provides the best return on their investments of time and money? 1. First, identify what you want out of the experience. Are you looking for a new job or new customers? Many people prefer learning or making contacts to potential customers for your product or service. Others seek opportunities to volunteer or to share or expand their base of experience and expertise. 2. Then, choose the group or groups that serve your goal and attend a meeting or two. See how it feels, what you learn, who you meet. Do the members support each other in ways you appreciate and ways that help you thrive in business? 3. When you find a fit, commit. Become a board member, says illustrator Pat Achilles of Doylestown (www.achillesportfolio.com). “I attended bi-monthly meetings of the Women's Business Forum for years, and often wondered if there was some hidden talent in the people who seemed to know everyone in the room, and everyone knew them.” She later joined the board. “As secretary I work alongside some of the most dynamic entrepreneurs on the board, and I very quickly developed a familiar relationship with them and their business. Now I am one of those members in the know, and it has brought me new clients and new referrals as well.” 4. Be authentic and sincerely seek what you can do for others, says Gina Rubel, past-president of WBF and CEO of Furia Rubel (www.furiarubel.com), a PR firm in Doylestown. Become a valued resource, and people will remember you and seek you out. 5. Differentiate yourself by being more specific then saying “I’m a graphic designer” or “I’m a lawyer” – say what type of work you do in 10 words or less, she adds. To get information or referrals, you must be able to clearly articulate what you do to others. 6. Ask for the person’s business card (“Ask if you can write notes on it,” Rubel says), but don’t offer yours unless asked. 7. Send a hand-written note to follow up. Achilles, the illustrator, “drew a series of funny note cards that I always send to follow up on new leads or thank clients for their business. These cards are specific to my creative talent and very recognizable as my style.” She adds that doing so “promotes name recognition and enhances your reputation for friendliness and courtesy.” 8. Stay in touch. Connect on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. When you see an article of interest, share it with them. If you learn that the person has had success, jot them a note. 9. “Be strategic,” says Rubel. “It’s about quality not quantity.” Maria Martino Evans is a writer and PR professional in Bucks County. She is also an adjunct professor of marketing in the MBA program at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown. Reach her at 215-738-2544 or email@example.com. The Women’s Business Forum’s mission is to educate, mentor and inspire women entrepreneurs to build and sustain viable businesses. For more resources, see www.womensbusinessforum.org.