As a busy entrepreneur, the time, money, and energy you put into your business is a precious investment. As a result, it’s important that you get a payoff from your business commensurate with your investment.
As a strategic business coach, one area that I’ve noticed most entrepreneurs fail to strategically plan for is networking. Consequently, networking becomes a frustrating “should” in the business and fails to produce the desired results.
Whether your networking activities take you online or offline, it important – and possible – to get the results you’re after. Plus, if your business is in stage one of growth and development, networking is a vital lead generation tactic for your enterprise.
Before making any significant networking investment, here are four must-do steps to ensure a networking ROI:
1. Determine your networking budget. There are hard and soft costs related to networking. Hard costs include the event registration or subscription fee. Your time makes up the soft costs. (Most entrepreneurs fail to include soft costs in networking budgets.) What can you afford – financially and physically – to invest?
2. Establish your networking objectives. What do you want to achieve with your networking investment? What does your investment need to produce? Do you want to generate leads? Build your brand? Increase your visibility? Having a clearly defined outcome makes your networking efforts purposeful.
3. Decide your networking timeline. Developing productive relationships, establishing trust, and building credibility among your peers takes time. You want to know, on the front end, how long you’ll need to commit to a networking activity or group to achieve your intended outcomes.
4. Develop your plan. Based on your investment and intended outcomes, what activities will help to achieve your objective? If your networking is offline, this includes the groups or organizations you may join and/or events you’ll attend. Networking online incorporates the tools or sites you plan to make use of, such as Linkedin, Focus, or the myriad of other online networking sites where your target audience hangs out. It also includes how you will use these various tools. (More of that to following in future blogs.)
Don’t let your online or offline networking become an unnecessary source of frustration and stress for you. You’ve got bigger, and better, uses for your energy.