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When Networking is a Waste of Time

Is networking a waste of time?Networking can be great or it can totally suck.

I think everyone’s viewed it through both lenses before.  Almost all of us business owners have attended formal networking events where the only thing you were thinking was, “what the hell am I doing here”.  The other times, we’ve left events where we were excited at the possibilities of new leads and potential business partnerships.  It can be hit or miss.

I wrote a previous article on why networking events are worthless.  I’m not here to pee on everyone’s networking parade, nor am I against networking……I attend formal and non-formal events almost every week.  What I’m saying is that alot of the time, we’re not doing it effectively.  Either we approach networking the wrong way or we are networking with the wrong people.

Below are 5 times that you’re wasting your time networking, at least in my opinion.

You network because you’re scared of selling

Everyone hates cold calling.  Heck, most of us hate warm calling.  If only people would just randomly hand us money and beg us to sign a long term contract, life would be grand.  If you’re not into selling (you better go find someone who is), networking can be a safe haven of soft talk and non-intimidating interactions with “friends”.  That’s alot easier then walking into a business and trying to pitch your value to a skeptical business owner.  While networking is good, don’t use it as an excuse not to actively go out and sell to potential customers.

You network because it’s comfortable

Just like above, don’t use networking as an excuse to not do the things you really know you should be doing.  At many networking events, most of the people are looking to get business, they aren’t necessarily seeking to buy anything.  Alot of sellers and not enough buyers.  They may not be your target market, you’re ideal customer is at work, at there business…..probably listening to a pitch from one of your competitors while you’re having tea and strumpets with other business owners just like you, “brainstorming” on how to find your ideal customer.  Networking is great, just don’t use it as a crutch.

You spend all of your time networking

Are you a professional networker? If your business is booming, that’s awesome, keep at it.  If after several months, there’s nothing, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your marketing plan.  Networking is the offline version of Social Media, it can be highly effective, but can also be a huge time suck if left unchecked.  Just like in your personal life, make sure you have balance in your business life.  Networking can be fun if you meet the right bunch of people, but don’t let it distract you from working on your business.

You networking isn’t really networking

I’ve attended networking events where most of the conversations revolved around shopping, family, vacations…..everything except business.  If you attend networking events like this, don’t fool yourself into thinking your networking for your business, you’re socializing with friends.  People will argue that this is networking……you’re building friendships and relationships.  If your marketing plan is to get business by osmosis, then this type of socializing is great…..it’s just not effective.

Your ideal clients aren’t networking, They’re At work

Be honest about this one.  Are the people you’re networking with fit your ideal customer profile, or are they like you, looking to drum up more business?  Most of our ideal clients are too busy to network, they are running businesses and have little time to spend on a Tuesday afternoon at the local cafe.  While your networking circle may be able to refer you to your ideal client, you still need to go to the source and get them yourself if you want control over your business.

How Effective Is Your Networking?

Networking should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, its not a marketing strategy in of itself.  It also shouldn’t replace a sales strategy for your business.  Put it this way, the guy who walks up to a girl and asks for a date will get rejected several times…..but will eventually land a date. The guy who’s afraid to ask for a date will hang around groups of friends…..hoping one of those cute girls will basically “ask him out” so he doesn’t have to.  Sometimes it works, but you could be waiting a very long time to get asked out.

 

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Gary Shouldis is a father, husband, business owner and avid blogger. He is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company helping small businesses grow their online presence and bottom line. When he’s not working, you can usually find him being chased through the park by his 4 children.

14 Responses to When Networking is a Waste of Time

  1. I find that it comes down to finding the right networking group. Some of them can be terrible, full of people trying to sell, sell, sell. I find informal, smaller groups are better for getting to know each other and building deeper relationships. I hate selling, so this is the method I use.

    • Thanks Jean, I think you’re right, it all comes down to finding the right people and venue for networking. It can take time, but there are lots of good ones, you just have to try out several and see what works for you. Whether you like it or not, selling needs to be a part of what you do, it’s difficult to sustain a business without a solid sales funnel

  2. I can to realize, after several months that I wasn’t hanging around my “ideal client”, rather with people I liked and were comfortable with. Now I make sure I balance my sales and networking. Great post!

    • If you’re not networking with your target client base, you need to supplement your networking with some other form of outreach, like direct sales or a trade show venue. I think, like many things, we get into a comfortable rut and may find we’re not spending our time effectively. Thanks for the comments

  3. Networking needs to be done with the end goal in mind. To keep myself motivated and not getting too comfortable with a few people, I have “short sprints” of X number of people I want to meet based on a time interval. I don’t want to blast through 10 business cards, but rather, make a professional introduction, learn about the individual and their business and moving forward with scheduling a conversation later in the week or moving on to the next person.

    Thanks for posting this!

  4. Hi Nehal,
    It’s always good to go into networking with a plan. I think we sometimes get lost in the social aspects of it and forget we’re doing this for our business. This doesn’t mean we try and push our service, but we do need to keep focused on why we network in the first place. I have found the quickest way to get a referral is to give one first.

  5. Gary,
    I think a lot of people are probably cringing when reading this, recognizing themselves in at least a few of the points. It seems like networking has been stressed a lot lately because at one time business people took so little interest in it, preferring to plunge right into business. These days, people are more sales resistant than ever leading to greater need for relationship building as part of the process. But, of course, it’s easy to go too far the other way and never ask for that sale.

  6. Thanks Heather! The best kind of business you can get is referral business, 90% of the sales process has taken place before they ever contact you. While networking is a must for any business, and can be a great lead generator, one thing that I often see new business owners do is to group together with other new business owners and “band” together to build their businesses.
    While this is great, sometimes a new business owner will lose sight that they’re not actually proactively trying to find new business, which is vital for a new business to survive, especially when you have overhead to meet.

    • Gary
      This goes to your second to last point and what I see as a lot of the real problem with social networking. If your network consists only of your peers, people who do what you do, not people who might buy from you, then how can it help your business? This isn’t just a problem with networking but with marketing and sales too. If you are a social marketer and every member of your network is a social marketer, then you’re all after the same customers. Who would buy your services, and, more importantly, who would refer your work when the rest of your network will be pursuing the same clients themselves?

  7. Great point Shawn, I think this is a mistake many new businesses owners get into. They attend events/meetups where everyone is in the same boat, going after the same audience…..but none of them are looking to become customers. I think it’s more of a comfort thing at first as it’s scary being out on your own when you first start. If you’re uncomfortable going direct when it comes to sales, trade shows are a good middle ground between networking and cold calling. Sort of like networking but at least your target audience is there. Cheers

  8. Great post, Gary.

    I believe that networking is an important activity to do whether you’re building a business online or offline. But, you need to make sure that you efforts are actually proving to be fruitful and beneficial to you and your business. There’s no sense in wasting valuable time so be sure your networking is as effective as possible. Thanks for sharing this post and your insights with our BizSugar community. I appreciate it.

    Ti

  9. Hey Gary,

    you mean to say that people aren’t just handing you money and begging you to sign long term contracts? Personally I hate it when they beg ;-)

    I enjoyed reading this and can identify with a lot of it, I think we really have similar views when it comes to people mistaking networking as marketing – networking is really important, but it’s not a substitute for marketing – as you say a good marketing plan should include good networking, but there’s a lot more to marketing than just networking.

    That being said, for networking alone, I do think deferring the business part of the conversation is often a very good thing (as long as it’s not taken too far, forgotten and never happens) – too often in situations where networking is being used for business purposes I see people trying to get the sale too early before they’ve built any kind of trust, rapport or relationship and that’s not so cool either ;-)

    I particularly liked your last point: Your clients aren’t networking, they’re at work. EXACTLY. Which is why you’ll almost never find me at networking events in the first place (if there’s someone I want to meet I tend to just reach out to them instead).

    excellent article my friend,

    Alan

    • Always great to hear from you Alan. You’re 100% right, any kind of direct selling does not work well for social networking and in Social Media. It works best when you try and provide value and benefit to others first and earn their reciprocity.
      I think as long as you know why you’re networking and what you hope to achieve with it, it can be a great part of an overall marketing strategy. Cheers!

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