Networking Road Map
by Raeus Jae Cannon on August 27th, 2015

When we take a road trip, many of us get out a map. Maps have a lot of interesting things on them: small roads, interstates, small towns, large cities, attractions, parks, points of interest, etc. 
Marketing our business is similar to that map. There are many ways to market a business: advertising, direct mail, internet, word of mouth, trade shows, printed materials, etc. Each of these, fall into one of two categories: passive or active. Most business people choose to use passive marketing because it's easier and requires what appears to be less time representing our business in the market place. Networking is active because it directly brings in prospects, but it does require our time and consistent effort. 

Every business wants positive word-of-mouth! It can be the difference between a company going from zero to 60 in seconds or going from 60 to zero! In fact, According to a recent 2013 study by Nielsen, 84% of respondents in 58 countries said: “Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family...are still the most influential.” Your branded website is only trusted by 69% and 68% said they trusted online opinions posted online. 

So, how do we meet these people that are willing to talk about our product, service or company? It takes personal time – our time.

But in order to network well we should create and follow a map. Our map should contain all the face-to-face networking events (i.e. cities/towns we’ll visit) that we would find our target market at. 

First step: Be Strategic
Attend specific events where you'll find people that need or want your services. Your local library will have an extensive list of local business associations (believe me - in this case it is WAY easier than an online search). Make a list of groups or associations that are (or reach out to) your target market (and that you'd enjoy attending or have interest in). Once you make this list – attend – and attend regularly. Attending regularly isn’t difficult if you make it a priority. Strive for 100% attendance, that way if you miss once or twice it won’t be a big deal. If you attempt the 100% attendance, you may not make it, but you’ll be close and that helps you to create a good positive reputation.

An important concept to remember is that word-of-mouth and reputation are built on our actions (not our promises). Example: I've known a local sales rep for a couple of years. He is a likeable guy and I always enjoy talking with him. He shows up at a lot of the events that I attend and we almost always have a brief conversation. He always tells me that he is going to attend my upcoming class (whatever it might be). The first three or four times, I believed him and looked forward to seeing him there. But, he never showed up. So now, when he tells me he’s going to do something (almost anything in fact) well, I don’t believe him. He's eroded my trust. 

Step 2: Drive 
When I network, I want to meet and create "drivers." Drivers can drive business to you (or away from you). They're what others call "Influencers" because they've proven their credibility, character and their reputation by being consistent as well as helpful. Drivers are a small elite group within your circle of influence. Drivers should be no more than your top 30 people. They personally drive business to your door and you should take extra good care of them by keeping in touch with them regularly and driving business to them. This is the basis of the thinking behind Referral Exchange Groups such as REO.

The points of interest/cities along your trip are the events that you show up at. On this trip, you want to consistently make strategic stops and make the trip to those stops often. 

If you draw out your map, consistently attend events and keep up a positive reputation, then you'll quickly get to your word-of-mouth destination. 

Raeus Cannon, CEO, is the founder of REO, Referral Excellence Organization in Knoxville, Tennessee. She works with professionals that want to connect with more prospects, quit making cold calls, and make more money! She's a trainer and published author of both books and curriculum on networking, word-of-mouth marketing and referral marketing. She's not made a cold-call since 1997 and she is quoted to say: "If You Network Well – You Never Need to Sell!" Raeus can be reached by email at ceo at reomeetings dot com

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Contact the author: Raeus Jae Cannon, CEO and Founder of REO, Llc: Referral Excellence Organization
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