When I work with clients on their marketing strategy one of the questions I start with to understand their approach is to ask what type of marketing they are already doing.  This tends to yield a laundry list of marketing tools, campaigns, or systems.  One of the items that often comes up on that list is networking events, chamber of commerce meetings, or industry conferences.  Great!  Meeting new people can be a productive way to build your business.  But then I ask, “What are you doing to follow up after those events?”  The answer to that question is usually bleak.

Chamber of Commerce meetings and networking events are designed to help you meet people. There is potentially great value in forums like this. Yet, networking is only as helpful as what you do after you have met someone.

#Networking is only as helpful as what you do after you have met someone. #smallbiz #smb Click To Tweet

When I go to networking events, I am amazed at this behavior I sometimes see of collecting business cards.  Of all the people who have spent less than five minutes talking to me, collected my business card, and then walked away, not one of them has ever contacted me again.  Not one. I wasn’t inclined to contact them either.

While that collector-mode style is at one extreme of the networking scene, I still find that what to do AFTER the event is the part of the process that so many business owners tend to get stuck on.  It could be because writer’s block or caller’s block sets in the next day.  It could be that time was allotted for in-person networking, but the next day the to-do list rears its ugly head.

The truth is that it doesn’t help you to meet twenty people who won’t remember you.

So, if you are spending time on a regular basis networking at events or chamber of commerce meetings, here is a tip: Try going in with an objective.  Think about three types of businesses that you could potentially collaborate with, and look to connect with someone in one of those areas.  Or, find that person that you say a friendly hello to at every chamber meeting and ask them if there is some way you can help each other in business.  Is there a certain type of person who would make a great client?  Look for someone who fits that profile.

It doesn’t help you to meet twenty people who won’t remember you. #networking #marketing #smb Click To Tweet

You can be intentional about networking.  Intentional networking is more productive, and it makes the follow up afterwards much easier.  You already know what you are going to say next time you reach out, because you know why you wanted to get to know that specific person to begin with.

Intentional #networking is more productive, and it makes the follow up afterwards much easier. Click To Tweet

I think chamber of commerce events, conferences, and other networking events provide a wonderful service for business owners.  They put you in the middle of a buffet of leads.  But just attending isn’t necessarily going to get you very far.  Be thoughtful about why you are there, look for the contacts that can be strong collaborators, and make the most of the space you have been given to meet them.

And if you want tips about what to say when you are networking, check out this post about Making the Perfect Pitch (both for casual conversation and more intentional sales pitches).