All people need to network and business people especially. Most importantly you need to target who you network and socialize with.
Business networking means that you have to get out into the world and socialize with other like minded (and sometimes not likeminded) people. If you are a hermit and concentrate soley on your work without people interaction not only will you miss opportunity but you will stem your personal development.
To network is to connect with like-minded people with the intention of discussing your ideas and promoting yourself to those people and their associates or friends. They do the same with you. Within the design community networking is easy as you can all attend the same events and discuss the design issues or subjects of the day but they are not the people that you will gain work or contracts from. In fact they are likely to be wanting to attract the same clients to their businesses.
To network you have to be quite calculating, unfortunately all of the promotion techniques are. From each network that you identify and want to be a part of you also need to be able to justify what it is that you can offer the network and what you will gain from it.
For example belonging to clubs and associations is a very good start and becoming an active member of the governing board of that association or part of a steering committee or group that is undertaking a project are all very honourable and noble tasks, however in business you also need to be able to take advantage of that situation. I’m not referring to advising on the club’s decoration or design of their premises but using your talent and personality to be able to be identified as a person with something serious to offer. This may be your business skills or it may be your design skills. Both are equally respected and important. Not only can this be interesting or even fun but it will develop your standing in the community and or target market that you have identified for your business networking. If the association doesn’t have some influence within that market then it’s only going to be an interest or feel good for yourself rather than a serious effort at networking for your business.
Who should you network with?
As part of your marketing plan you will have identified your target market or markets. Within those markets there will be business and social structures that you should be able to identify and eventually belong to.
Some ideas of associations that exist that you can socialize and network with at the same time.
Chamber of Commerce and Regional Employers Association
Your local Chamber of Commerce should be a very valuable form of business networking. These entities exist to help facilitate business within the community and attending meetings and conferences within these groups is the ideal way to get yourself know. Putting on a series of lectures or hosting an after five function will quickly get your name out there amongst the business community
These are usually full of active people from all works of life. If you are interested in a sport like squash or tennis and especially golf, then it’s a good way of meeting people who may be interested in design while you are both interested in the particular sport.
Community Clubs for Business Networking
Rotary, Lions clubs or even toast masters (or whatever business or community charity club exists in your area.) These are often coveted by persons from small to medium sized business. They meet on a regular basis and perform good deeds for the community or are just trying to develop themselves. Active involvement will ensure you meet and socialize with many like-minded people who will at one time or another require the services of a designer. Within structured associations such as these you can sponsor an event or even host an event that may be lecturing on the benefits of good design within their work environment or even the benefit of good design for family life.
Other groups may include coffee or business groups on a much smaller scale or even womens league or other single sex groups that share some common theme. Once there they are always open to new and interesting subjects that you can contribute to.
Targeting specific groups may include a project manager association of which all designers have specific management skills or it may be property management groups be it commercial or rental housing. These are all groups and markets that you can form and belong to a social network of. Once there it’s a matter of being active and getting your name out there within the group. This is a highly targeted form of marketing. While I can’t give you all the answers there are many many novel ways of enticing those members to:
- Remember who you are
- Seek advice socially
- Eventually recommend you to others
- Employ you directly