Network Your Butt Off

Being a good writer means being a good business person. Which means knowing how to deal with clients and potential clients at each stage of your relationship – from meeting them (networking) to managing and working on their job to following up with them afterward.

If there is a good book out there on all this, I have yet to read it. But since I know it’s something important, I keep an ear and an eye out for tips at all times and take them where ever I can find them. This first one comes from Ugly Betty.

See, Betty was new to networking and wasn’t very good at it. So she gets some tips from her friends on how to make contacts at a networking event.

They gave her a four step process. First, introduce yourself. Walk up to a likely looking person, stick out your hand and say something along the lines of, “I don’t believe we’ve met, hi I’m (your name here).” Then they say to follow your name up with something memorable about you – which will create an association in that person’s mind and make them more likely to remember you. If it has something to do with your business great, but it’s more important that it be something really memorable. In the episode, they suggested that the memorable fact didn’t even necessarily have to be true, but I’d recommend you pick something that is (ie. “Can you believe I met the hostess of this party when she was naked? She was dating my roommate at the time”).

Now, Betty’s friends stressed the importance of not wasting too much time on any one person – that the idea of a networking event was to meet multiple people, (step 3) trade some info and then (step 4) beat a timely retreat (ie. “Oh can you excuse me?”). However, the lesson in the episode is that the real connections she made when she didn’t listen to their advice (she spent the first half hour talking to the janitor, making a real friend) helped her out more in the end than the “contacts” she made following it.

So my advice, derived from a combination of the two, is to introduce yourself, and if it isn’t going well don’t be afraid to cut your loses and move on to the next possible contact. Yet if you start to make a genuine connection to someone, take the time to explore it. Making lots of contacts is important, but making real connections is too.

This next tip has come up multiple times in multiple places. But I hadn’t heard it until I started to read business topics aggressively, so I thought I’d share it here – always hand out 2 business cards to every person you meet. One for them, and one for them to pass on to a friend. It’s a great trick, that I plan on using … as soon as I get my business cards printed (which will happen as soon as I decide on a company name).

At the end of chapter 4 in Parker’s book, she interviews a writer named Jan, who gives us our next killer tip.
“At the end of the project,” she explains, “I always say ‘Thanks for the business, and now that we’ve worked together and you know what I can do, is there anyone else you can refer me to?”

This policy is a GREAT business tip – there are businesses out there who rely on it as their sole source of new contacts. One example is Cutco – the knife company. My best friend years ago worked for them for a while and my other half’s little sister is looking into working for them now. They have each sales person make a list of people they know who might be interested in buying knives. Then that person goes around to each of those people and does their “cutting through a penny” trick to show how great the knives are. Some people buy, some don’t, but at the end they ask the “customer” for a list of anyone they know who might be interested – and their contact information. It seems to work pretty well for them!

So even though tips sometimes come from the strangest places, pay attention. You never know where the next indispensable piece of advice will come from – but if you catch it, it might make all the difference for your business.

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