It seems everyone is networking these days. With the proliferation of networking groups, clubs and organisations, you can attend business related events in most towns and cities every day of the week. Add to that the increasing numbers of tradeshows, exhibitions, conferences and seminars, and you’ll soon see how hard it is to be a recluse in modern day business.
The networking landscape has changed, though, in recent years. We’ve got the whole social media revolution going on. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any number of other platforms have become your new inbox. You can network with almost anyone in the world with an internet connection. People are seeing more and more that traditional face to face networking can be problematic if you want to raise your profile and build your business. Let’s explore seven reasons why networking is a waste of time.
- It’s not strategic. As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. If you want to market yourself or your company, you can do a social media campaign, video marketing or SEO. Other traditional routes are still valid: you just have to ask the clients of advertising, telemarketing and PR companies whether they deliver results. My guess is that if they didn’t work, they wouldn’t be in business for too long. For some people, networking is not the right strategy, and for that reason, it’s a waste of time.
- It’s labour intensive. Networking is a one-to-one sport. It’s hard to get scale and leverage. For that reason, it generates a low ROI for most participants. Depending on where you go, it could take you a day to have a handful of meaningful conversations. With the travelling to and from events, the high degree of face time and the effort required in following up and keeping in touch, you can waste a lot of valuable time networking.
- It requires skill. Most people have not been trained to network. They don’t see it as necessary, or are just ignorant of the notion that working a room, making connections and selling yourself can be coachable. Consequently, there are many mistakes made. One of my most popular networking talks is around the ten worst networking mistakes people make. You can have all the passion in the world for your product, but if you’re clueless about the art of networking, then you’re ‘ignorance on fire’ as I heard say once.
- It’s not targeted. Many networking events are a collection of the good, the bad and the ugly from many businesses, sectors and disciplines. Depending on how clever you are with the way you choose your events, few will be in your target market. And few will be able to introduce or refer you to your target market. In other words, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get to the prince. That makes networking a pretty expensive waste of your valuable time.
- It’s intimidating. Ask people if they actually like networking and I’ll be surprised if many reply with a resounding ‘yes’. In ‘Death Came Third’ a networking book by Peter Roper and Andy Lopata, the authors quote a survey of business people just like you who fear walking into a room full of strangers more than death. What does that say about shaking hands and swapping business cards? If you’re nervous and scared, how is that going to achieve your business objectives?
- It’s overcrowded. They say ‘fools rush in…’ and sure enough, you start a networking group and everyone’s willing to try it out. I’ve been in a room of 20 business people and five of them were selling pretty much the same thing to the same people for the same price. Now nobody minds a little healthy competition, but you’ve got to ask yourself if there are better ways to stand out in today’s crowded market place than in a room of competitors who are saying all the same things as you. A waste of time.
- It’s old-fashioned. Networking used to be done exclusively in posh gentlemen’s clubs and on golf courses. Then it went mainstream. Trouble is, you no longer need to do the face to face networking to meet people. The internet has changed all of that. More people than ever are meeting romantic partners online. I’ve sources suppliers, advisors and providers on LinkedIn and freelance sites without even meeting them. I’ve sourced new clients through building relationships and having conversations online. Wouldn’t you rather bag a new customer in your PJs than suit up for a face to face event and maybe get lucky?
Don’t get me wrong. I love networking, and make my living from helping people do it more confidently and profitably. I’ve made close to $1m through networking. But I’ll be the first to tell you (a) whether networking is right for you, your business and your business model and (b) if it isn’t, what you can do instead to build a formidable network and become the number one ‘go to’ choice for what you do.
It would be great to add you to my network on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. That’s where I’m networking mostly these days. If we never hook up, though, no hard feelings. Just consider all of the networking you’re currently doing and ask yourself one question:
“Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
Rob Brown is one the world’s leading authorities on personal marketing, networking, executive presence, referrals and reputations. He is Head of the Global Networking Council and author of the bestseller How to Build Your Reputation. As well as doing a lot of executive one-to-one mentoring on executive presence, gravitas, reputation building and networking, Rob is Founder and CEO of the Professional Banking Academy, an international training company helping banking professionals increase their influence and win more business. For a complimentary copy of his powerful 93 page Special Report: The 13 Commandments of Turning Relationships Into Profits (value £47) go to www.rob-brown.com
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