A lot of precious time and hard earned money is spent on networking, which is why networking should be approached strategically and integrate with the rest of your marketing activities.

It takes time, months even years, to build strong relationships.  Getting to know business acquaintances that really understand you and your business, and you theirs, only comes with repeated meetings and discussions.  Only once these relationships have been built are you likely to start to receive referrals and feel confident enough to make referrals.  Networking is a long term marketing strategy; a very powerful one not to be ignored.

Networking is not all about getting business either.  A huge amount can be learnt from conversations with others as well as finding suppliers and partners to do business with.  There are great opportunities to raise your profile and demonstrate your expertise through speaking, presentations and contributing to newsletters and blogs.

Here are my top tips for networking ROI:

1) Choose the right group for you and your business.
2) Visit the same group regularly to build on existing relationships and get actively involved.
3) Prepare your elevator pitch so that you clearly explain how your offering helps your clients.
4) Listen and ask how you can help.  The more you give the more you receive in return.
5) Set targets e.g. number of meetings per week, quality conversations and connections made.
6) Follow up.  ‘Nice to meet you’ email, connect on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook. 
7) Seek permission to add new contacts to your email marketing list to keep in touch with useful information.

These are just a few ways to ensure you get the most out of your networking.  Please add your tips for getting maximum return from networking investment.