Networking has become a ‘must-do’ for those in small business. As a group we have bought into the value of networking, being able to meet those with whom you may have something in common on neutral round, have a conversation, build a rapport, and perhaps do some business.

I go to a few groups, and see some consistent mistakes being made.

Never ask for something until you have given first.

To successfully use personal networking as a marketing tool requires that you are prepared to put yourself out for others, to share what you know freely, and be seen to be doing so, otherwise, why should any others do anything for you. You need to put stuff into the bucket before you take anything out. Be generous with your knowledge and time.

It takes time.

Networking is a human activity, being impatient never works, unless you get lucky, and run  into some one who has a problem for which you have a specific solution.

Take the initiative.

Leaving a meeting hoping that your ideal customer that you have just met will call you as you suggested should they ever need you is silly, pick up the phone, connect on LinkedIn, send an email, send them an article, whatever you do, take the initiative somehow.

Do not be a ‘card-ninja’.

As a kid there was a Japanese Samurai show on TV,  (I even remember his name, Shintaro) badly dubbed into English. The playground game of the day was mimicking the throwing of  the star knives the Samurai in the show used to deadly effect. I am often reminded of this when someone I have never met before approaches at a network event, says hi, forces a business card into my hand, and moves of to the next victim. Needless to say, they all get the round file treatment.

Do not ask for referrals too soon.

When I give a referral, implicit in that referral is the assurance that I would do business with the person I am referring should the appropriate circumstances arise. Therefore my credibility is at stake, and so I will be very careful about who I refer, and to whom I refer them. I certainly will not refer someone I do not know well, and in whom I do not have absolute confidence.

Do  not ‘landscape”.

How did you feel when talking to someone who does not look you in the eye, and does not give you their attention? rather they look over your shoulder seeking someone more interesting, obviously seeking to move on? You do  not like it, and you will avoid them in the future, so why do you allow yourself to do it to them?

Be yourself.

Trying to be someone you are not will get you found out very quickly indeed,  and forever labelled as  a fake. Not a useful outcome. Not everybody will like you, relate to you, or even be vaguely interested in what you have too say, so there is no point in wasting time trying to be someone you are not. Humans have a very well developed social instinct, work with it, not against it.

Apply common courtesy .

This is almost a catch-all of the above, but the little things count, such as being punctual, remembering names, welcoming new members, and just simply offering a smile. A member of one group I am in is consistently late. While it is a little thing, him almost always coming in late is disruptive to the meeting flow, and is a poor recommendation of his personal habits, and I would never refer him as a result.

Networking is a powerful and pleasant way for small business owners to not just build revenue, but find others with whom they share common challenges, and learn. However, like any commercial activity, it should be undertaken with due regard to the objectives you have, and the costs involved. perhaps most importantly, the owners of small businesses are usually pretty time poor, so reflecting on the productivity of the time you spend networking will pay off.