Oh, how I love working from home, toiling away in my office surrounded by the dogs and the cats. It’s ideal for me, as an ambivert, to “network” from the comfort of my keyboard most days of the workweek. I do know, though, that I can’t build all of my relationships online, nor should you. If possible, there is nothing like a face-to-face whether at a networking meeting, a conference, or a getting-to-know-you with a potential client over a cup of coffee.
The beauty of our Internet-based world is that we can perform work for a client anywhere in the world. The drawback is that personal connections aren’t forged and you may find a client doesn’t have a particular loyalty to you or your services, and that could be simply because he or she doesn’t really know you. Consider for a moment: If you have an opportunity to work with two service providers who offer the same service and one is right down the street and the other is across the country, wouldn’t you be more inclined to want to work with a “local”? Believe me, it’s not always the case, and I speak from experience. I only have one client that is local; my others require a ten-hour drive in order to meet them.
What I am saying is that as part of growing your freelance business, you need to learn networking as it will lead to your pet blogging success. With my clients, I travel to their locations annually. We spend a couple of days re-connecting, put together their marketing and content strategy for the upcoming year, and enjoy one another’s company. We also talk, either via Skype or by telephone, every other week. The face-to-face of a Skype video chat helps stay connected with my client. I make it a point to reach out and initiate the conversations because I want to remain their service provider and my contact with them keeps me front of mind when they have new projects they need a content creator for.
Here are my tips for networking for pet blogging success:
Know why you’re going.
Why are you attending a networking event or conference? Do you just want to upgrade and update your skills? Are you looking for new clients? A combination of the two? Have you decided you need to make new contacts to build your newsletter list? Are you launching a new product or service?
Knowing why you are going will help you be more effective and reap the greatest reward from having attended.
With whom do you want to meet?
Don’t get disappointed if you can’t connect with everyone at a conference–that is likely an unrealistic goal. Chances are there some “must meet” people. For example, when I go to Social Media Marketing World I HAVE to connect again with Chris Brogan and I need to talk with Mike Stelzner or Social Media Examiner–and I do. They are the rock stars with whom I want to connect.
Most conferences utilize social media to promote the event and give attendees an opportunity to interact prior. Be active in pre-conference forums and make plans to meet some of the people you’re interacting with. It’s not just about meeting and having a selfie with a keynote speaker.
I know there are fascinating attendees I simply have to meet and I make certain I do just that.
Prepare an elevator speech.
Your elevator speech should be a roadmap for what you want to share, but it shouldn’t feel rehearsed. Have a conversation. It’s more meaningful. When given an opportunity to stand up and introduce yourself, keep it short and simple but noteworthy. If your elevator speech can prompt others to come up to you and say, “Tell me more about what you do” then you have scored. Don’t be so obtuse, though, that people are left scratching their heads wondering what exactly it is that you do.
It’s not about making a sale.
When you attend a networking event or a conference your goal should be to build relationships. People want to work with business owners they “know, like and trust.” Jump start your relationship at the conference then keep in touch and continue to build it once you return home — that’s how you will make a sale.
Network outside your niche.
Yep, I love poodles and network with pet owners, but I also network with business consultants, women entrepreneurs and a group of editors. Why? Because if I am only networking in groups of other writers, chances are we are all seeking more writing clients. If I attend a business consultant meeting, I just might be opening myself up to new opportunities and clients because I just might be the only writer in the room.
Movie outside your niche as it will help you be a more well-rounded individual, and could open the doors to new opportunities.
Know how it feels when you walk into a room and everyone is already partnered off or in groups? You feel like an outsider, am I right? When you’re in a group of people and you see someone hovering on the outskirts, be the one who turns and invites that person into the group. He or she will remember your kindness. Remember, it could be you on the outskirts of that group wanting to be let in.
Ask open-ended questions.
Just as I learned to not ask my children, “how was your day at school?” because all I would get in return was a “great” or “it sucked,” you need to ask questions that require more than a one word answer. Remember, too when you’re at a networking event it’s not all about you; it’s about getting to know others and letting them get to know you. It’s a conversational give and take.
To break the ice look for common ground. Comment on a piece of jewelry, “I love your cat pin. Do you have cats at home?” Ta-da, ice broken.
Being at a conference doesn’t mean your outside life ceases to exist, right? What does that mean to a conference attendee? It means you need to separate the two. Strangers will be polite and listen if you share your personal problems. You don’t want to be remembered as, “the person who wouldn’t stop talking about their credit card debt, migraine headache or lost luggage.” If someone asks, then briefly share, but don’t make it the topic of conversation. When someone says, “Hi. How are you?” They aren’t looking for a litany of your health woes — say, “I’m great. You?” and let the conversation flow.
What are your best practice tips for making the most of a conference?
Robbi Hess will be speaking on Time Management For The Blogger at the BlogPaws 2016 Conference. She is an award-winning author who works with clients on time management issues as well as content creation and content strategy at All Words Matter.