To Increase Your Networking Return on Investment
It’s the end of a long stressful day (or week) at work. The last thing you want to do is head out to a networking event. You may question whether it is worth your time and effort. Start by believing that networking works for you then prove it to yourself.
For every networking event you attend, you should calculate your return on investment. If a similar event last year netted you a threefold return on your investment, wouldn’t you feel better about going again this year? You won’t know if you didn’t go and didn’t take the time to calculate your ROI.
For mixers, lunches, dinners, association meetings, conferences, trade shows, and similar events, you need to take into account the cost of admission and group membership, your promotional materials, transportation and parking, and more personal items like your wardrobe, grooming, and time. You also need to factor in what you would earn in the same amount of time doing other activities that generate income for you. Please be realistic here. Don’t imagine you are giving up $100 per hour if you have no means of earning that amount.
Use the following equation to determine your simple return on investment:
ROI = [(Income Generated By This Effort – Monetary Cost) / Monetary Cost] x 100.
More complicated formulas also include the hourly cost of your time and the value of potential future sales that are a direct result of contacts made at this event. If you’ve never stopped to determine ROI, keep it simple for now.
Increase the probability of a positive return on investment by doing a little homework before you go. Talk to people you know and trust to find out what groups and gatherings have been beneficial for them. Be sure to ask for specific examples of benefits in case you need encouragement later. Request an introduction to individuals in their group you would like to meet including people you can help and those who might help you.
Attend events that have a clear purpose. This will increase the likelihood that members of your target market will be present. It will also allow you to prepare themed promotional materials to take with you: business cards, brochures, audio-visuals, giveaways, and even products, making you more memorable.
Consider the intangible returns of participating, too. Are you having fun? Are you spending time with people you enjoy? Is this meeting your need to get out or away from your virtual or home office?
More and more people are networking online for business purposes. As with face-to-face networking, you can still measure your return on investment for e-mail campaigns and for your participation on social networking sites, forums, teleconferences, and Webinars. Some of the costs will differ. Although you no longer have to provide transportation and a special wardrobe for virtual networking events, you pay for Internet access. You may also have to add the cost of long distance phone service, a computer, a microphone, and specific computer programs to participate or to send e-mail campaigns. More time may also be required initially to set up your templates and profiles and to learn the rules. As you connect in meaningful and valuable ways, you may desire to spend additional time networking, too.
Let the word “network” remind you of two things: networking can increase your NET worth and networking is WORK. Be sure to do the work of calculating your return on investment for each networking event you attend. This allows you to determine which future events will most likely increase your net earnings.