Having been to every a4uexpo London since the inaugural event in 2007, and spoken to countless people in that time, when I was asked to come up with some thoughts on networking I had to cast my mind back to that first event.
I was relatively new to the industry at that point and didn’t know too many people who were there. Now, looking back on that event and subsequent ones, I realise how many strong business relationships and even friendships I have developed through networking at industry events.
Therefore I present my top five tips on how to effectively network within the performance marketing industry:
Arm yourself with the right tools
Both you and your employer will have spent a lot for you to be at an event, whether that be money spent or the opportunity cost of time away from your desk, and therefore you need to be clear on the reasons for you attending. Is it to speak to specific people, get the word out about your company product or are you looking for new business? Whatever it is, you are effectively selling yourself and your company, and you wouldn’t go into a sales pitch without knowing who you were pitching to and a bit about their business.
Therefore you need to be prepared and so here are some examples of pre-event activities to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance
- Try and find out as much as you can about who is going to be at the event
- Look these people up on LinkedIn etc (probably not Facebook, that’s more like stalking…)
- Try and arrange a specific time and place to meet people if you know they’ll be there
- Make sure you’re up to speed with what’s going on in the industry
Be prepared to follow up
One of the things that I’ve been guilty of previously and something I’ve had to work on, is ensuring that you follow up on conversations you have. Inevitably, you’ll end up having a great conversation with someone after a couple of beers and then get back in the office two days later and the details from the chat are gone.
Because you will speak to so many people it can be difficult to remember the full details of all of them, but there are some things you can do to help yourself.
- Make sure you have plenty of business cards so that the people you speak to have as much opportunity as possible to contact you
- Get their business card
- One thing I have forced myself to do is to make notes on people’s business cards. It helps you frame the context of the chat and makes it more memorable.
Have confidence in yourself
You’re not going to turn up at a show and have everyone flocking around wanting to speak to you (unless you have a merchant badge on!), and so you need to be prepared to instigate conversations yourself. In my experience, the majority of people you meet in life are friendly and so just walking up to them and starting a chat is not something to be worried about. Everyone is there for the same reason.
- Attempt to empathise with people
- Don’t be afraid to tell people if you don’t think the conversation is going anywhere (politely)
- Work on the assumption that people want to hear what you’re saying, until they tell you differently
- Be enthusiastic
Be true to yourself
This is the most important thing, in my opinion. You are not going to get anywhere by pretending to be something that you aren’t as people will see through it very quickly. Try and play to your own strengths, be yourself and you will come across in a stronger way than if you are trying to put a mask on.
The old adage is that people buy people first, and what you are trying to do at an event is to sow the seeds of a longer term business relationship. By establishing an early rapport, while maintaining your integrity, you stand a better chance of that occurring.
I asked around Performance Horizon while researching this article and our ginger haired CFO came up with a brilliant quote. He said “networking is like socialising, but with people who might do you favours”. The aim is to establish yourself as someone who the person you’re speaking to feels that they could do business with, if not immediately, then at some point in the future.
If you go into it with the goal of just getting on with people first and foremost, and a secondary goal of identifying any business opportunities then you won’t go far wrong.
So don’t be daunted, look at it as an opportunity to meet new people. You’ll get more out of it if you just act naturally and have fun while doing it.