Should Entrepreneurs Use a Written Strategic Plan for Networking?
Just recently, I went to a networking event, which included approximately 30 business owners. At this event, people were walking around socializing, drinking, eating and discussing their various businesses. In watching all that transpired, I thought to myself, “how many people”, including myself, “came into this event with a written strategic plan, based on their company’s business plan?” I would hypothesize not a single person.
Was it a wasted opportunity to not have strategically planned for my networking event? Or, should networking be more informal as compared to formal? In this article, I will explore the pros and cons of each approach.
Written Strategic Plan for Networking
Pro: Having written strategic plan will help a business owner set specific objectives for the networking event. For myself, in this event, I told my wife that I would hand out five business cards. Granted, this was not written down, but the objective was set and attained. An interesting note from this objective was that the fifth person I met was the CEO of a local zoological Park. This was, by far, the best conversation of the night, except of course, the conversations with my wife.
Take away: By having an agreed-upon number of people that I would meet and give a business card, I was able to set a clear objective for the night. Once this objective was attained, I felt as if I have accomplished something, even if I did not get a business lead.
If I would have had a written strategic plan, I may have been able to set additional objectives for the evening such as handing out more business cards or identifying specific individuals that may be potential strategic alliances. This would have led to a more productive networking event.
Con: A challenge to having a written strategic plan for networking events would be the possible pressure of attaining the objectives for the business owner. For myself, networking is not one of my best strengths. I always get nervous and I am not sure how to start a conversation with other business owners. By adding the pressure of written objectives, that may be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” so to speak. In other words, with written objectives, I might not have even gone to the event. This would have led to me missing out on some very good conversations.
Take away: Attending a networking event is more important than having a set written strategic plan to best exploit the opportunity. Just showing up for the events increases the opportunity of identifying potential leads and meeting possible strategic alliance candidates. If you do not show up, then there is zero possibility. Some possibilities always better than none.
So… Should You Have a Strategic Plan for Networking?
In my most humble of opinions, in starting to network, just showing up at the events and having a set number of people to meet is a great way to start. As your comfort level grows with the networking environment, start writing down specific strategic objectives to attain at each event. Sooner, rather than later, each networking event opportunities will be exploited to their fullest, even if you are not the best and most social of entrepreneurs.
Author: Paul Borosky, MBA.