Posted on November 30, 2006
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

As a small business owner, I am well aware of the importance of networking and garnering good word of mouth. In fact, at least 50 percent of my business has come through word of mouth and networking. That is no small feat considering I am also an introvert who doesn’t like to feel she is pestering people (except maybe my spouse and daughter), even though I know that you have to be persistent to get work. So I am ALWAYS on the lookout for tips, tricks, and tools to help me make a connection, break the ice, keep a conversation going, make a good impression, and get work. 

Herewith, my three top tips for making connections, extending your network, and generating positive word of mouth (or buzz).

TIP #1: Read my article about the importance of word-of-mouth marketing and professional networking.  I had suggested the article to my editor after being invited to join a professional networking site, LinkedIn, because I was curious to know how the Internet could be — and was being — used to connect people professionally and for word of mouth.

While people connecting online is no longer new or unusual, and who hasn’t checked out the user reviews on Amazon or TripAdvisor before buying a product or going on a trip? I wanted to know if these sites actually delivered — that is, did people really link up on LinkedIn or make buying decisions using sites like Judy’s Book

The answer is “yes, but.” Yes, I met several people who had made valuable connections on LinkedIn. But I also have met or spoken with lots of people who hadn’t. Similarly, I have met or spoken with lots of people who rely heavily on online word-of-mouth-type reviews (both positive and negative) to make their buying decisions as well as people who only trust the opinions of close friends and family members.

The bottom line: when it comes to networking and word-of-mouth marketing, you have to use every tool available: email, the Internet, friends, relatives, colleagues, associations — anyone and everyone, online and offline, who can give you help, advice, connections, work. But remember, networking and word of mouth is a two-way street: you will get only as good as you give.

TIP #2: Consult the experts — either people you know who you regard as expert networkers or people who have written on the subject.

While on Thanksgiving holiday out West, I read The Art of Friendship: 70 simple rules for making meaningful connections by Roger Horchow (the founder of The Horchow Collection and a former Broadway producer) and his daughter, Sally Horchow (an L.A.-based writer). What a great little book! The Horchows’ simple rules — peppered with wonderful anecdotes — contain invaluable tips for connecting, which is really what networking is.

Although Roger Horchow, who I had first read about in Malcolm Gladwell’s thought-provoking book, The Tipping Point (which is another excellent read), in which he was described as a “connector,” someone “with a special gift for bringing the world together,” cautions not to confuse business with pleasure, I found his advice for making meaningful connections very enlightening.

TIP #3: If you are not actively networking every day, just reaching out to one or two people via email or over the phone, start now! Your business depends on it!

As always, if you have any tips, tricks, or resources you would like to share, send me a comment and I will post it online.

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