SCORE gives advice on strategic networking to grow your business


Question: As a small business owner who wears many hats, how do I maximize my investment of time and money by networking?

Answer: Oftentimes those who network think “the more the merrier” when it comes to attending networking events. Unfortunately, that approach rarely works. What does work is being strategic about where and why you decide to attend a networking event. As a small business owner time management is a key skill and deciding where and when to spend your networking time is critical. Answer these simple questions and turn regular networking into strategic networking.

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Is the event or hosting group strategic for your organization? Thinking strategically about everything you do to successfully grow your organization includes where you invest your networking time. Being strategic means you’re constantly asking yourself if anything about the event or hosting group is a strategic fit as a source of new revenue, important contacts, referral sources or vital information to growing your organization.

Are you a member of the organization? If you’re a member of the organization, you have more chances of attracting the attention of staffers and board members at the event. If the organization hosting the event is worth its salt, it’ll have a proactive Membership Committee and board that’s eager to help you make meaningful connections, and engage you at a higher level of involvement and sponsorship.

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Are you active in the organization? The best way to get traction from networking is to be very active in one or two organizations. By doing this, you’ll generate momentum because more people will know you, know your work, and be eager to help you make profitable connections. Being actively involved or engaged can mean being a board member, joining a committee – especially the Membership Committee – which is a great way to meet people and target those you want to meet, or joining an organization-sponsored education program. Active involvement can also mean making a commitment to attend the organization’s events regularly, and supporting the organization financially as a sponsor.

Will your target customers and referral sources be there? If your target customers and referral sources probably won’t be attending the event, you might want to rethink if it’s worth your while.

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With these simple guidelines, average networking becomes strategic networking — generating more profitable connections, qualified leads and new business for your organization.

Mark McGregor, Speaking of Hearts, offers a few networking tips to consider:

1. It’s the quality of the connections, not the quantity.

2. Wait for someone to ask for your card instead of just handing them out – the quality of the connections improves dramatically.

3. Forget the “what’s in it for me” attitude and adopt a “what can I learn about others” attitude.

4. Listen, listen, listen – be interested in others and focus on what they are saying, then they will be interested in you.

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5. Work toward building relationships, not just contacts.

6. Focus on giving the first referral. Referring you will follow.

7. Use stories to demonstrate why others should refer you.

8. Be specific about the type of referral you seek.

9. Actively engage in the networking process, don’t wait for it to happen to you – it may not.

10. Thank the person who initiated the referral within 24 hours of receiving it.

11. Arrive early and volunteer to help set up. You can begin your networking with assisting in the organization of the event.

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12. Networking can occur anytime, anyplace, not just at formal networking events.

13. There will be a time when networking when it will be your turn to describe who you are, what you do and what you offer your target market. Be prepared with an elevator pitch that is not “salesy” but clear, concise and focused.

14. Be prepared to network by having something interesting to say in response to others’ dialogue. What was the last book you read, movie you saw or vacation spot that is most memorable? It’s about being interested in other people and having something interesting to say.

15. No matter what happens if you connect with someone and a relationship has begun follow-up since the exchange at the networking event was only the beginning.

This Tip from SCORE was provided by Jane Renzi. Jane is Principal of Jane Renzi & Associates, Marketing and Business Development Consulting, and Marketing [email protected],, 774-801-2945. For free and confidential mentoring contact Cape Cod SCORE at 508-775-4884, [email protected]. or

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