This post is Day 27 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

When I say the word “networking” what do you think of? Everyone has a slightly different slant to the connotation of the word.

You may have thought about a particular group you go to regularly, and how you interact with people that are more then business owners – they’ve become friends.

You may have thought of the word fear – you hate walking into a group of unknowns, and be expected to walk up and start a conversation.

You may have thought about online networking – yep, Facebook and Twitter, wondering how you can gain more leverage by using social networking sites.

Whatever your idea of networking is, it ultimately impacts how successful your business will be.

Is It Networking or Notworking?

I worked with a mentor a number of years ago who helped me grow my business. He had an interesting view of networking. He felt that most people weren’t networkers; they were notworkers.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, networking means: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. The key emphasis should be placed on the word “productive”.

For most people, they head to a networking event, grab some food, and make their way over to a friend. They stand and talk for a bit, shake hands with one or two people that drop by the little group they’ve formed. And then they head off.

Did they truly accomplish anything? Nope. They simply “checked in” with someone they already know, that has already formed an opinion about them, and never took advantage of the opportunity that was there.

Or in other words, they notworked.

To effectively network, you have to accomplish three things.

1. Create a goal and a plan
2. Take action until you reach your goal
3. Follow up

Create A Goal And A Plan

When you head out to a networking event, what do you hope to accomplish? Very few people ask that question first. Instead, they hear of an event, sign up and go. That’s it.

Without a plan, you can’t establish goals. And without goals, you are simply flailing about at the event.

  • A plan would be “join two networking events, go to 90 percent of the events”. Then add the detail of what you want to accomplish over the next year.
  • A goal would be “find 3 people at Wednesday’s meeting to meet for coffee over the next week”.

The idea behind both is to give you direction for what you truly hope to accomplish by joining a group.

Keep in mind that there are different types of networking groups as well. We’ve discussed BNI in a previous week; the goal of BNI is to find referrals, and bring in new business. If you join a photography group like WPPI, your goal may be to expand your knowledge base of running a photography business. While you’ll definitely find a bunch of ideas for your business, you probably won’t find business. Make sure your planning and goals take that into account.

Take Action Until You Reach Your Goal

We’ve been a part of the BNI group for years now, and it always amazes me the number of people that come in, pay their fees, and leave within a few weeks because “it doesn’t work”.

Networking takes time. You have to build trust, find commonality, and give people a chance to know you.

If your goal is to “meet 3 people for coffee” every week, you are on your way to success. Networking groups allow you to spend a few minutes talking with someone, but you rarely get to build a relationship. There isn’t time. But if you meet for coffee or lunch for an hour, you can dive into all kinds of details. A few personal facts. What your background is. What your business does. And more importantly, how you can work together.

Networking isn’t all about taking; it’s more about giving. The more you give, the more you end up getting. People know when you are active, and have a “helping” mentality. And they are more likely to give to a helper whenever they can.

That doesn’t mean you should do it insincerely. You have to genuinely want to go down this path. But once you do, it’s a lot of fun. You meet all kinds of people, and connecting two people can be very rewarding.

Follow Up

Along the way, follow up as much as you can. Build your database with everyone you come in contact with. Even a simple spreadsheet can help you out. You can even include a comments section, and take notes on where you met or what you have in common.

Occasionally you’ll talk with someone, and you’ll instantly think of someone you’ve met in the past. Then it’s easy to connect the two together – and they will remember.

You can also email or send a letter in the future when things come up. Maybe you are starting up a new promotion, and giving to a charity. Who on your list could help you?

With a list in place, it’s also easy to come up with ideas. Scroll through your list, and reach out to people again after a few months. In today’s economy, they may have changed positions or moved to a new job. Why not reconnect and get to know one another again?

It’s not about expecting business to come to you. It’s about going out and making it happen.

Networking – 2011 Style

Networking hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s all about commitment.

Yet how you network has.

Ten years ago, who would have thought you could network on Facebook – with people half way around the world – and actually do business? Yet it’s happening daily today.

Even though technology and tools have changed, some things haven’t. To be effective on social networking sites, you still have to:

1. Create a goal and a plan
2. Take action until you reach your goal
3. Follow up

And that again is where most people fail.

Why are you on Facebook?

I speak at a lot of events, and ask that question all the time.

“To keep track of my kids.”
“Because my sister told me I had to sign up.”
“I recently had a class reunion and we connected that way.”

Yet I rarely hear anyone mention they are building a business network to connect with potential and current clients.

And that’s where they fail.

If you don’t create a plan, and understand why you are using Facebook (and other sites), you’ll never succeed. Meaning you’ll never grow your business using these tools, because you won’t do what’s necessary to accomplish your goals.

“Because my sister told me I had to sign up,” doesn’t give you the necessary goals and tasks to go about bringing in a large enough following to make people take action. “Add 25 people to my Facebook page,” does.

How are you networking?

Are you making any changes today?

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