Networking 101: Developing Your Game Plan

This year is winding down and with that comes lots and lots of planning, strategizing, and goal setting for next year. In order to get your business house in order, you’ve likely been pulling together and finalizing your budget, business goals, marketing strategy, and – I hope – your networking strategy!

A solid and thoughtful networking strategy can easily complement your business goals. It’s important to consider how your budget, goals, marketing, and networking all work together. Efficiency in coordinating these four main efforts can directly contribute to your business success or failure.

Let me help you review your networking strategy.

STEP 1: Finalize your budget

  • Determine your total budget for the year. This is to include day to day operations, marketing, and networking efforts.
  • Break your budget up by quarters. This way, you have smaller, benchmark numbers to hit. For me, this helps to keep my budget at the forefront of my decision making.
  • Review your budget. At the end of each quarter, consider your ROI – where did you get the most out of your spending? Where do you feel like the time and money you spent fell short? Adjust accordingly and stick with what works! 

STEP 2: Set your business goals

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis. Namely, define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Base your goals on turning your strengths and opportunities into action and eliminating your weaknesses and threats.
  • Line up your goals with your budget. It’s important to work within your means and set yourself up for success from the start.
  • Double check that your goals are SMART – specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based. 

STEP 3: Define your marketing strategy

  • Recognize your audience. Part of knowing HOW to market is knowing WHO to market to. This includes making decisions on the type of platform and the content that is most appealing.
  • Pick your platform. There are so many options and knowing where you are posting will help dictate how often you post, the tone and length of the post, and what your focus is. For instance, the style and delivery of your content is very different when considering a tweet versus a blog.
  • Get creative. Your marketing strategy should and can extend beyond social media. Consider flyers, brochures, cards, or mailers as appropriate. Don’t forget to design and prepare materials for networking events or special promotions! 

STEP 4: Outline your networking strategy

The moment you’ve been waiting for! Now that you know your budget, your goals, and how you’re going to market yourself or your business… get out there and sell it!

  • Don’t just be a salesman. I use “sell” loosely above. A major goal of networking should be to build your network. Sounds obvious, right? This idea is often overlooked. Use events as an opportunity to get your name out there and to start to build connections with fellow professionals.
  • Know what your networking goals are. If your goal is more than “closing the deal,” you need to understand what it is you are looking to achieve with your networking efforts. Are you looking for referral partners? Employees or a new job for yourself?
  • Schedule time for networking. Try to block a few hours into your week and register for one networking event per month. The more you make networking a priority the more likely you are to give it your full and undivided attention.

For additional help on developing your networking strategy, give us a call at Piccolo Marketing at 615.348.7768.

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