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Making Connections: Maximize Networking Value

Finding an organization that attracts people that fit your prospect profile is the first step to building your business through networking. Attend a meeting or two as a guest to make sure the group is a good fit before you invest in the membership fee. When you find the right organization, attending events won't be a chore -- you will have fun and feel like you are building valuable business relationships. Here are some tips for maximizing your networking value.

Meet local business owners at the Chambers of Commerce. Your local Chamber of Commerce is an obvious place to start if your focus is serving local businesses. Most Chambers hold regular networking meetings and many sponsor special interest group meetings and workshops. "Technology" and "Women in Business" subgroups can be a great place to start with a smaller group if you are hesitant to attend a large group meeting.

Build partnering relationships through IAMCP and HTG Peer Groups. When a customer asks you about a service that you don't provide, do you have trusted partners that you can refer? If you don't, you lose control of that customer's research. The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners and HTG Peer Groups help VARs, SIs, ISVs, managed services and training partners work together to build complementary relationships and sharing leads.

Focus on your niche through professional organizations. If you have an industry focus or target a specific professional role, consider joining a related professional organization. Local chapters of national associations give you a unique opportunity to connect with a targeted group of people and have the added value of building your knowledge of your market. If you have specific expertise, offer to share your knowledge through programs or workshops.  

Start up your own networking group. Do some of your current customers share a common interest? If you sponsored a regular meeting, would they tell their friends and business associates? LinkedIn makes it easy to announce and promote meetings to special interest groups. Focus content on the attendees' interests -- not yours -- and you'll keep them coming back. Business will follow.

Take advantage of Microsoft resources. Microsoft Community Connections is a program sponsored by the Local Engagement Team to help you bring valuable content to your networking organizations. The site offers presentation templates, videos and marketing materials that you can use to create a presentation for a meeting or workshop. This is a great tool to help establish you as an expert in your community.  

For many people, it's not easy to take that first step out into the networking world. Social media is great, but no replacement for face-to-face relationship-building. Take a chance, get out there and give networking a try.  

Where are you building beneficial business relationships? Please tell me about it so that we can share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on April 06, 2011