DId you know that up until recently lawyers were not allowed to advertise in the U.S., recently meaning the 1970's. Yes we all know lawyers were doing well before then, so how did they do it? There were no TV commercials, No billboards and no ads in your local newspapers. It's simple they learned and mastered the art of networking. An old school lawyer has developed his networking skills to the Nth power!
Networking is much more than we want to think it is online. Networking is not just throwing up ads, that is advertising much different than networking. Networking is building relationships that lead to the most effective form of advertising there is, word of mouth.
So what is word of mouth advertising? Simple it's having people tell their friends and family about you, and it's free! Think about how many times you have done free advertising for something or someone. We do it all the time. Know of a good restuarant? I bet you told someone. Seen a good movie and just had to tell your frinds to go see it? Used a good product and couldn't wait to rave about it? All of those examples are word of mouth advertising and I'm sure you never got a check for it either.
That is the goal of networking. To have your name be the one people tell their friends and family when you have the means to help them solve a problem. But it takes work for that to happen (Don't I just love to use that obscene little four letter word!).
When you build relationships you need to have some goals in mind.
1. You need to show that you are indeed capable of filling a need. Don't oversell yourself or promise what you cannot deliver. Nothing is worse than landing a major deal when you don't have the resources to deliver. You look like you are unreliable or worse as if you are committing fraud!
2. Have a well developed code of ethics. You have to be trustworthy. No one is going to refer business to someone who cannot be trusted. When someone refers business to you and you turn out to be unreliable or untrustworthy, it reflects badly on the person who recommended you. There are two reputations on the line!
3. Stop trying to sell the people you network with. Just like you they are looking for business, instead look for ways you can work with them to get mutual business. Often you may have clients that can benefit from them just as they have clients that can benefit from you.
4. Don't be afraid to ask for the business. If you meet someone and know that thier clients can benefit ask if they are willing to meet you and let them know that you would like to show them how you can help their clients. Notice I didn't say anything about selling to them.
5. Commit to putting in the time and effort. I don't care how many off-line or on-line networking communities you join, if you are not going to show up and get to know people in that group, you will fail. A new networker often will go to a mixer and leave with the feeling that the group is "cliqueish". They are not they just don't know you. You have to put in the effort to get to know them and that means committing to it. Soon you will notice that you are counted among the "clique".
If you are going to network, then network. Learn the difference between networking and advertising. Build the relationships and develop your presense. Be an active contributing member of the community!