Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Mari Smith interview – Relationship Marketing Expert

Mari Smith is a relationship marketing expert, trainer, and author of several e-books and e-courses.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Mari Smith: Businesspeople have been networking since the dawn of commerce. Business networking is quite simply the art of relationship-building. We reach out to connect with new people, seek commonalities to build rapport, and strive to nurture the relationship for mutual benefit.

What we’re seeing now is a huge upsurge in online social networking platforms. And, we must keep in mind these platforms are designed to be social, first and foremost. So, where we might attend an in-person business networking function and expect to come away with strategic business contacts, with social networks we need to focus on building relationships first, and engaging in business second.

Both business networking and social networking are vital to the solo professional, small business owner, and entrepreneur. It all comes down to the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And I like to add, “… more importantly, who knows you.”

Josh: Can you share a few ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Mari Smith: Sure. I believe it’s important to have a strategy before beginning to build out your business community through networking. You need to be clear on what it is you have to offer, what problem your products and services are the solution to.

Then, everywhere you go – whether online or offline – be yourself. Be genuine, seek to be interested vs. interesting as Stephen Covey says in his Seven Habits book. Look for ways to join an existing conversation and add value. Ask good questions. Read your friends’ Facebook profiles. Follow them on Twitter. Get to know them. Reach out and connect and see how, just by being your authentic self, you can uplift people’s spirits.

Also, there’s a fine line between our personal and professional worlds, especially for solo-entrepreneurs. The more transparent you’re willing to be, the more people will want to get to know, like and trust you — which is one of the cornerstones of a successful business. On this topic, I recommend the book, Radically Transparent by Andy Beal.

Josh: Upon meeting someone new, inevitably the question of “what do you do?” comes up. What is the best way to go about communicating what one does, and how can they leave a positive impression when they explain what they do to others they’ve just met?

Mari Smith: To effectively answer the “What do you do?” question, it’s important to have a clearly defined “tag line” or “30-second elevator speech.” You might want to work with a coach or colleague to help you fine-tune your soundbite.

I recommend focusing on the result you help your clients create. E.g. instead of saying “I’m an Internet Marketing Consultant,” you might say something like, “I help my clients implement online systems to increase their profits while freeing up more time.”

Studies show we make up our minds about people within the first 3-5 seconds of meeting them. This applies whether we’re connecting face-to-face or looking at someone’s website, blog, Facebook profile, or other online presence. So, you definitely want to keep a close eye on these areas to maintain a quality professional presence.

Regarding leaving a positive impression, I typically look for ways to contribute to someone I want to connect with. Social networking sites like Facebook make this very easy to do. By first reading through their profile, you can find something of interest to comment on, a resource to recommend, a helpful tip, etc.

Josh: Based on your experiences, which places and activities (online or off-line) have you found best for meeting new people and expanding your business network?

Mari Smith: Facebook is my top pick. Twitter is a close second. I also have a presence on LinkedIn, Plaxo, a couple of Ning groups, and a slew of other similar sites — but I spend the bulk of my networking time on Facebook and Twitter.

As for activities, I recommend being active consistently with valuable and relevant posts. There are so many possible touch points to reach our marketplace, as well as entrance points into our businesses; the key is to find the right mediums for your business and be visible in many places.

Josh: Mari, you’re an expert on helping folks to get the most out of Facebook.com — can you share some specific ideas that would be beneficial to people who want to use Facebook as a source for growing and expanding the quality of their professional network?

Mari Smith: Yes. First, I recommend already having a defined business plan, strategy, website, blog, etc. But, if someone is just starting out in business, they can always set up a Facebook profile and reach out to find the support they need via Facebook.

Then, register for a Facebook account at facebook.com. Set up your personal Profile. And, also create a Facebook Page for your business. It’s important to note Facebook disallows duplicate accounts or accounts in any name other than your own personal one. So, you’ll also want a Facebook Page. You can gather up to 5,000 friends on your personal Profile, but on your business Page you can have unlimited “Fans.”

Next, populate your Profile and Page with instructive information about you and your business.

Now, you’re ready to:

* Join Groups.
* Update your Status regularly.
* Use Posted Items to share useful links.
* Add brief comments to your friends’ Walls, Notes, Posted Items, Photos and Videos.
* Write informational Notes and tag key Facebook friends.
* Write a blog and import your feed using Notes and/or one of the third party blog applications.

Josh: Do you see any common mistakes people tend to make when it comes to attempting to make business connections? If so, what are they and what corrections could they make in your opinion which would help them to be more effective in their approach towards networking?

Mari Smith: Absolutely. I see heavy-hitter internet marketers using pushy and aggressive tactics on the likes of Facebook and, in my opinion, it is actually counter-productive. These tactics include: adding your signature file on every wall post, uploading irrelevant content to groups you belong to for the purposes of pushing into your friends’ News Feed, posting spammy comments, and just generally being “all about the numbers” as I put it.

I believe there are two types of marketers: numbers-based and heart-based. The numbers folks have tunnel vision for the dollars, list-size, group-size, conversion rates, etc. The heart-centered folks genuinely care about their marketplace and see their prospects as real people with real needs, wants and challenges. In fact, just by reading someone’s Facebook profile, you can tell which marketing camp they belong to.

The good news is, we have the ability to “unfriend” someone on Facebook. It’s essentially a spam-free zone, unlike our regular email systems where spam can be tough to control.

And, because Facebook hyperlinks to your personal Profile *anytime* you take any action anywhere on Facebook — whether writing on walls, posting items, comments, etc. — whenever someone likes your vibe and likes what you’re saying, with one click, they can read all about you on your profile. I like to think of Facebook profiles as a business card, brochure, website, blog, photo album, storefront and more — all rolled into one page.

Josh: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

Mari Smith: It’s hard for me to pick just one! I’ve set up two new blogs since I joined Facebook in July ’07 and 90% of the traffic and subscribers comes from my activities on Facebook and Twitter alone.

I teach a free introductory Facebook course on Podclass.com and currently have over 800 students and I just launched a paid course, member program.

I’ve increased my hourly consulting rate by 50% and I predict my income will at least triple this year as a direct result of the relationships I’ve built using social networking tools.

*brought to you by BusinessNetworkingAdvice.com

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  • Scott Bradley

    Mari Smith is an amazing lady! Everyone should know her! She is so genuine and caring!

  • Jerry Brower

    @Mari:disqus : nGreatn tips on Business Networking. u00a0Like with any other skill, networking njust takes time and practice. u00a0With a little perseverance these skills ncan become more natural and more easily drawn upon when needed. u00a0Some nother very helpful free tips can be found at: u00a0u00a0u00a0 http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

  • Wowee, @joshhinds:disqus  – a blast from the past. hehee – thanks for sharing this recently on Facebook. I just took time to read through again. The content is still 99% accurate and timeless – love that! 🙂 The only change I’d make is don’t tag people in Notes, unless they’re specifically mentioned in the note. 

    Also, I’m no longer traveling the US in a motorhome (as of late 2008) and no longer married (as of mid 2009) as I blogged about here: http://www.marismith.com/choosing-to-share-my-private-journey-a-transparent-update/. 🙂 

    P.S. You might want to disable the link to the Facebook for Pros course as it’ll show as a broken link; I no longer own any domains containing ‘facebook’ 😉 Feel free to replace with: http://www.marismith.com/coaching-consulting-services/

    You rock, thanks!!

  • Mari, thank you for providing updates in your comments above. I made a few updates to the interview. If you see other parts you’d like adjusted please don’t hesitate to message me directly. Thanks for all the great work you do helping others!

    -Josh