6 Brutal Fails of Networking

This is a guest post from Laura Jorgensen of Cedar Fort Books. Follow Cedar Fort on Twitter and Like them on Facebook!

Why should people network?

The answer might be obvious to many who have benefited from the effects of networking.

“Many people make introductions, get promoted, or jumpstart career transitions because of networking – having the courage to meet new people and having the discipline to maintain familiar contacts,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart.

For myself, about half of the jobs that I’ve had were because I knew someone who already worked there. From an internet point of view, networking is a way to get your message heard by as many people as possible. The more friends you have the more people willing to listen and repeat your message.

You’re probably saying to yourself about now, “Wait! I thought you were going to tell us how to not network.” So I am, but first I wanted to set the stage of what networking can do.

Recently I went to two different conventions, one for fun and personal interests and the other for work. Conventions are great places to network because it is a bunch of like-minded people getting together to talk about something that they’re passionate about. You don’t have to seek them out, they’ve gathered together for you.

Unfortunately I mostly failed at the whole networking thing, especially at the second convention (granted the second day I was sick, but still). I only gave out my business card to one (count them, 1) person total, and that was because I told myself I couldn’t leave until I did (I left right after). I was able to say hi to some of the panelists, but it wasn’t anything that would make them remember me out of the hundreds of other people that were there trying to network too.

On the whole, the one good experience was definitely a foil for my many other failures. And from those, here is what I’ve learned about how to NOT network:

6 Ways to Network Unsuccessfully

  1. Blend in: If they can’t see you they won’t know that you’re there.
  2. Don’t talk: Not even to your neighbor, not even about the weather, cause that might lead to something else.
  3. Be obnoxious: No I wasn’t (at least I don’t think I was), but I noticed some people that, even though they had good resumes, I wasn’t sure that I’d want to be in contact with later.
  4. Be sick: Well I guess that’s not really a requirement, but being grumpy and miserable is indeed a turn off. If you really want people to stay away you could hack into a handkerchief every once in a while.
  5. Be self-centered: One-sided conversations, are great ways to not get to know other people.
  6. Don’t have a purpose: At the first convention I knew more the type of person that I was interested in networking with. At the second I didn’t. So I ended up just swiping swag off their tables and not really talking to them.

Moral of the story: Don’t do what I did at the conventions.

Go talk to people. Be memorable. Be interested in other people and they will most likely be interested in you. Be a likable person so that people will WANT to be your friend. And don’t be afraid to talk to strangers–they may be just the person you’re looking for. Also stay in contact with old and new friends. You never know when you might hit a gold mine.

Word of Mouth Advertising at it’s best or worst!

When you see a great new movie, how many people do you tell? Why do you tell them? What’s your intent? Most likely you want them to see it too. No other type of advertising is more powerful than word of mouth. Your friend probably didn’t pay attention at all to the Hollywood hype about the movie, but they know you as a friend and respect your judgment.

If the show’s terrible the negative vibe will spread even faster than the positive. Statistics say that: “Negative word of mouth influences future patronage up to five times more than the person who experienced the problem first-hand…meaning that the original problem description is continually embellished as it passes from person to person.” (Verde Group and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania).

If you’ve been involved in marketing for some time, or even if you are just getting started, you probably know the result of negative word of mouth advertising too. Why do we tend to tell people a lot more about bad experiences we’ve had with people, businesses, or services? We all hate confrontation don’t we? It seems that some actually must like confrontation – they continue to be jerks over and over again. These business owners must have no idea about the effects negative word or mouth advertising can and will have on their business plan.

If I’m unhappy with a product, service, or employee of a company, I’m going to whatever I can to get things resolved. If they don’t make any changes or solve the problems, I’ll warn everyone I know to stay as far away from them as possible. My thought is that you never know the effects a bad product or unfriendly service may have on future business. Just like the smell of a stinky diaper, bad news spreads all over the place. You’d think someone would take it out to the trash sooner than later!

So, the point I’m trying to make is this: if you want your business to really prosper, to really get to a level you may have never dreamed of, be nice to people and follow the “golden rule!” It’s not really a new concept. Everyone likes friends; not many people like jerks. The effects of negative word of mouth advertising will have effects that we may never be able to track with our business.

How do I start a Joint Venture or Business Partnership?

A Joint Venture is a “business strategy where two parties utilize one another’s strengths to positively grow their prospective businesses, creating a win/win relationship.” (dictionary.com). I truly think there is nothing better: utilizing one another’s strengths to effectively grow your business.

Here are a few steps I take when forming a Joint Venture:

Step One: Set Goals about what you want to accomplish with this new marketing strategy – the more specific you are, the better chance you have of realizing these goals. Write these goals on paper so you can see them. “A goal unwritten is only a wish!”

Step Two: Ask yourself: “Who already has a strong relationship with people to whom I might be able to sell a noncompetitive but related product or service?”

Step Three: make a list of company names on paper, then DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Research the companies you think would make great partners with your company. Find out what their clients like best about them. Look at the companies marketing: What do they do now? Who do they target primarily? How could it tie in with what you do?

Step Four: Contact those non-competing businesses and present them with a proposal that is hard to say no to. Show them how committed you are to making this work. Make a list of all the benefits your product or service will bring to their clients. Introduce them to your product or service. Supply them with plenty of information on what you sell, and some testimonials confirming its high quality.

What are steps you all have taken when forming partnerships or joint ventures?

Sponsorship and Joint Venture Sales

Since forming a partnership with Highlight Sports about a year and a half ago, I’ve learned many important things about Sponsorship and Advertising Sales. Here are a few ideas:

– Instead of talking about price, talk about “return on investment” or what they want out of the sponsorship (some may not care as much about ROI – they just want to show their support and brand their company name)
– When the question is asked about cost over the phone, set up an appointment to meet in person if possible
– Ask questions about what the company does for marketing
– Take notes
– Pick their brain about how what we are doing could benefit them, if not now, later
– Tie their needs back in to the presentation
– KISS: keep it simple stupid
– Listen for buying clues
– Don’t burn bridges: what may not work now could always work later if you leave a good impression.

Additional Notes I took on my learning curve:
– Mention competitors as options for sponsorship
– Use phrase like “We are considering your company as a potential sponsor…”
– Generally better to start a little high with numbers: you can always negotiate down, but not up
– Be willing to negotiate price and tools provided
– If they are hesitant with the pricing, ask something like: “Is there some things I could rearrange to make that package a better fit for you?”
– Show clients past work we’ve done

There are many different approaches that can be taken; these are some of the things that have worked for me. More to come….

What have you all learned?