It’s all about the money (and the time)…3 tips to build a networking strategy that maxmizes both.

Hey, isn’t there something else you should be doing right now? I mean, thanks for stopping by to read my blog and all, because I know that by choosing to spend the next eight minutes or so reading my ideas on networking, you’re giving up eight minutes of doing something else for your business.  You’re juggling.  You’re compromising.  You many have decided to reschedule a client call, or delay scheduling your social media posts.  Whatever it was, I know you’re busy.  We’re all busy all the time. And, as professionals, we’re accountable for our time.  We’re accountable to our businesses and our clients, and we’re accountable to the bottom line.

Time and money.  In business, that’s what it always boils down to.  Time and money.  I frequently remind my clients that every minute we take away from our business is an investment, and that as a business strategist, I encourage you to invest wisely.  Reading this blog, for instance.  You’re investing eight minutes with the objective of learning something that will payoff ten- (or one hundred-) fold in your business.  When you evaluate your to-do list every day, you prioritize those items that are revenue generating or that will move the needle forward in your business (if you’re not, stop now and read my recent blog on time management!).

Are you evaluating the time and financial investment of your networking in the same way?  I only ask because, I hear clients all the time complaining that they’re “networking their asses off” (their words, not mine!) and not getting any results.  When we dig deeper, it usually becomes obvious that they’re networking in the wrong groups, with the wrong people, because they aren’t AWARE of their goals for networking, so they aren’t able to be PURPOSEFUL and INTENTIONAL about how they are aligning their networking activities to get there.

Probably the most important question to ask yourself is why are you networking?  Understanding your reasons will help build your strategic plan and make sure you’re spending your money and your time wisely.  People network for all kinds of reasons – to find new clients, to connect with other professionals within their own industry, to find a mentor, to find a new job, and a million other reasons.  Understanding and being AWARE of your reason allows you to maximize your investment of time and money.

There are three key ways you can make sure that your networking efforts get the return on investment that you’re looking for.

First, identify the right groups and events.  I recently attended a networking event for women business owners, which happens to be my ideal client profile, only to find that out more than half of the attendees were coaches.  Which was a waste of my time, because my goal at the time was to connect with potential clients (note that I specify “at the time”: I have other groups that I engage in with the express purpose of connecting with people in the same industry).  Investigating membership lists or RSVPs can help you evaluate whether joining a group or attending an event is the right use of your time and money.  Are the people who will be there going to help your further your goals?  Identify those groups whose membership and attendance align with what you hope to achieve.

The second way to protect your time and money is to set a budget for both.  There are so many networking groups out there, and an equally endless number of meetings and events.  We could spend all day, every day schmoozing with people.  But that’s not realistic.  We have to get the work done.  Prioritize those groups that most align with your goals and set a weekly or monthly “time allowance” for events and meetings.  The same goes for membership dues or event fees – identify those opportunities might be most valuable to you and set a budget for your monetary investment.

Third and last, plan your networking strategy.  Make the most of your time and money at the events that you do attend. I network a lot in a lot of different groups, and I am consistently surprised by how many people show up with no obvious strategy or plan.  It’s pretty apparent when they introduce themselves and they can’t articulate their brand or their ideal client, or they show up without business cards, or they sit quietly by themselves without engaging.  They’ve just spent an hour or more of their business day (or worse, their free time during an evening!) to attend an event where the purpose is to connect and grown their network, and they haven’t done that.  From my viewpoint, that’s a waste of their time, money.

Unless you’re looking for an excuse to escape your desk for an hour every week, make a plan for your networking efforts to maximize your investment of time and money.  Do your due diligence to know who will be in attendance; make a point of connecting with those people who can help you move towards your goal, whether it’s a new job, or a new client; tailor your elevator speech to the purpose of the event and the purpose of your being there; use your elevator speech to make the right connections, combine your “this is who I am” statement with a “this is why I’m here today” statement; make a goal ahead of time for how many follow up calls or coffees you want to make after the event; and please, please, remember your business cards!

Networking takes time, and any time you spend away from your business is an investment.  Making a plan and being purposeful about your networking efforts ensures you’re investing time and money wisely.