Is it still relevant?  With all the technology, social media, and direct marketing tools available to businesses today, it is a good question.  I think it is.  Despite the truly astonishing advances in the informational society we live in, despite the computers, cell phones, and myriad electronic devices that have infiltrated every facet of our lives, there is no substitute for looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand, and having a one to one conversation.  We are social creatures.  Most of us want to meet and get to know the people we do business with.  

I can think of an excellent example.  My mother passed away, and I was in the market for an estate attorney.  I happened to meet one at a networking event.  His name sounded familiar.  I asked if his family owned the restaurant that was on the beat my father patrolled when he was a policeman.  He remembered my father, and his mom used to fix my dad sandwiches.  Did he get my business?  You bet!

What exactly is networking?  Simply put, it is going to a meeting or event with a room full of potential customers or possibly someone who can provide you with a product or service.  Remember, they are there for the same reason you are.

How do you go about networking?  The biggest mistake is to run around the room passing out business cards.  Have conversations. Listen; don’t just talk. If you can refer someone they can do business with, give the potential customer a call.  If things work out and you help them make a sale, they will be honor bound to do the same for you.  Concentrate on people who can create multiple referrals for you, like  realtors, janitorial firms, and property managers.

Where do you go to network?  The Building Office Managers Association, Property Managers Association, The Chamber of Commerce, and the local Business Networking International group are all potentially good networking venues.  

Networking does have drawbacks.  Some require mandatory attendance, training, and podcasts. You will be expected to produce referrals for the other members as well. There must be a large number of new accounts to justify the time and expense.  It may not be a good fit, but if done correctly; it can be effective.

by: Matt Johnson