I have had a few people tell me lately that I am a “good networker” and ask what groups I am a part of and what events I go to. I reeled off a few of them, but upon further reflection, I didn’t help those people by doing that. I should have told them that they were asking the wrong questions. If they want to build good networks, and hopefully due to that, more clients, they can’t just do what I did. After all, they aren’t business and intellectual property attorneys.
Better questions to ask would have been: Why did I pick those type of activities? How did I choose those specific ones? What else do I do to build or support those networks? Since they didn’t ask those questions, I’ll try to answer them now.
Why did I pick those type of activities?
First, I am comfortable going to happy hours and events and talking to random people. Other people are not. If I wasn’t comfortable with it, I’d pick a different route. Perhaps I’d focus more on different events or not events at all. Jeff Glazer likes to write articles and be on committees. If you find him at a happy hour, it will likely be in the corner people-watching. I’ll be the one striking up a conversation with whoever looks my direction. Or as I like to joke, the nearest potted plant.
I also am involved on non-profit boards. I pick causes that I care about, not necessarily boards with names I recognize. In fact, even better if I don’t know many people on the board. I want to want to help and be an active board member. On one hand, it is the reason I joined – I care about what is going on and want to make an impact. On the other hand, it shows that I am trustworthy, hard-working, and hopefully, not dumb – exactly what I want potential clients and referral sources to see.
How did I choose those specific ones?
The most important thing is to identify your target market. Who are you trying to meet? Where are they going? Get yourself in front of them. Maybe that is a speaking event if that’s your thing, maybe it is a happy hour, or maybe it is an article in whatever it is your target market reads.
Partly, it is trial and error to get the right mix. Go to an event. If it stinks, don’t go back. Make sure it actually stinks and not sure you were just in a bad frame of mind. This is a good one to ask others what they are doing, but make sure you are going for the same target market or they are a part of the target market. Then re-evaluate every once in a while. Are you still getting good return on that time investment?
What else do I do to build or support those networks?
This isn’t a one time thing. It isn’t “Here’s my card. Now let the benefits roll in!” You have to keep in touch with those contacts. Follow up with any card collected. Connect on social media. Set up a coffee date. Recently, I was talking to someone about their awesome business card and how different people choose what their card is. On the way home, I was listening to NPR. Marketplace was talking about business cards, too. So a follow up email was easy. “On the way home last night, I heard this story about the evolution of business cards on NPR! https://www.marketplace.org/2018/02/08/business/business-cards-are-getting-weirder”.
Yeah, networking is work. It can be fun, but you get out what you put into it. There is no magic potion other than elbow grease.