“The richest people in the world look for and build networks – everyone else looks for work.”

Robert Kiyosaki

With our very own Hero Conf happening right now, chocked full of 10 scheduled networking opportunities, making connections and meeting new people is something our team has been thinking about a lot lately. Of course, it would be most excellent if businesses could grow entirely from word of mouth or incoming leads…but as marketers ourselves, it would be pretty hypocritical of us not to look outside inbound interest.

Specifically for digital marketers, I don’t feel there are such things as “trade secrets,” which means we’re also in the business of connecting with our potential competition so that the industry continues to grow at the right pace. Take this very blog, for example! PPC Hero itself is built on the premise that we can’t manage every PPC account out there, so why not try and further educate the masses so our industry stays healthy? Knowing that at the end of the day we can all benefit from learning from our peers, networking in the digital marketing world carries even more value than other industries.

On the flip side, no matter how important networking might be – executing it poorly can be excruciating for everyone involved. So today dear readers, I bring you my top tips for the art of networking:

1) If you continue to assume the person you want to meet isn’t interested in meeting you – they’re not going to be.You’ll continue to hear me beat the drum that we all have something to learn from one another, so no matter how inexperienced you may be, you can’t let someone else’s hype or resume keep you from reaching out and trying to connect. Find the most confident pants in your closet, put them on, and go introduce yourself.

2) Do not send excessive emails or messages to someone you want to connect or meet with, especially if they’re not responding. You will look creepy and that you can’t take a hint. Even if they were simply too busy to respond to your initial attempts – when they aren’t busy but you’ve sent 10+ emails to them in a week…you’re still not going to hear from them. Get out there, introduce yourself and tell them why you’re reaching out (in person or otherwise). Then let it settle. Unless you really and truly need something from them, don’t turn into a stage 5 clinger. No one is into that.

3) Get outside of your comfort zone and find new places or mediums to expand your network. If you’re great at starting conversations at industry conferences, that’s awesome! Don’t lose that skill, but also, push yourself to go to an event that isn’t attended by your peers or colleagues and try to meet new people. You’ll be forced to flex different conversational muscles because you’re likely not going to be as comfortable with the topics in the discussion as you are with those in your business. You’ll get better at asking questions when (inevitably) your new connections start talking shop and in acronyms you don’t understand. You’ll learn to listen more intently so you don’t miss details to help with your comprehension of that thing you don’t understand.

What I’m getting at is that because you’re not as educated in the conversation taking place in front of you, you won’t be in your own head thinking about the next thing YOU want to say. This is a skill everyone could learn to sharpen and putting yourself in a situation to network outside your industry is a great way to practice.

4) FYI – it doesn’t count as networking if you walk up to a group of people and just stand there. As much as it can (and will) behoove you not to talk for talking’s sake, being completely silent in a group scenario is the equivalent of attending a meeting you don’t participate in. You want to at least introduce yourself and, as outlined in my previous point, listen intently and find some way to contribute – ask a question, offer a different view (do not read this as “argue,” because argumentative new people are the absolute worst), provide an anecdote of you own, etc.

5) Business cards are still a thing, even with social networks being the “sexy” way to connect. I have only been caught without business cards a few times and every single one of those times, I have felt so sheepish not being able to exchange that physical piece of collateral. I know a ton of you are going to say “why not just sent a LinkedIn request right there?” and I’m not saying that isn’t OK. What I am saying is most people get LinkedIn connections from people they’ve never met on a daily basis and it’s become largely impersonal. If you’ve exchanged business cards, there was a real-life conversation that can’t be easily replicated in a digital connection.

6) While we’re on the topic of LinkedIn most educated people can tell when you’re sending a copy/pasted message to every one of your new connections. So if you’re reaching out to someone you truly want to network with, take a few minutes to write a personalized message directly to them and do NOT try and sell them or get them to connect you with someone else right out of the gates. Be appreciative, leave the door open for future conversation and feel free to tell them why you wanted to connect, but make it meaningful.

7) Follow up when it makes sense. Whether it was in-person or online, don’t let all that networking work you’ve done go to waste! Still follow my previous note on not being too pushy, but make sure to keep in contact with your new connections. Send them something relevant to their business that you see in the news, shoot them a question and get their POV from an outside perspective or periodically find out if they’re planning on attending another event where you can meet up again or for the first time.

Final Thoughts

You know what I love about lists? They’re rarely, if ever, comprehensive – so what are your tips, tricks, and thoughts on networking effectively? Share them with us on Twitter, and come say hi in Philly if you’re joining us – we would love to meet you!