How to Effectively Network Within a New Industry
Most people don’t know that Livio started as a consumer electronics brand (Myine Electronics) focused on the baby boomer cohort. Aside from the standard consumer electronics distribution and sales channels (which we had a lot of experience with prior to starting Livio) we went out to network within boomer groups.
We exhibited at industry events for boomers including trade shows and conferences like AARP. We were very successful networking and getting our name out there as the “consumer electronics audio company focused on baby boomers.” Unfortunately, selling audio products geared towards boomers and seniors was a fatally flawed business plan. In addition to Livio going through the baby boomer channel, we also went through the radio broadcasting and Internet radio advertising channel. (Another industry we needed to create a strong network with)
Now at Tome we are working on a few projects, including a corporate wellness product. For this new corporate wellness product, we have to learn the medical and corporate wellness space. I feel (again) like a fish out of water, but we’ve been through this process before. As I’m gearing up for our first corporate wellness show in DC next weekend, I figured I’d share some of my tips from taking on this challenge of creating a new network a few times before.
- Refine your elevator pitch: Being clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it is a prerequisite to being successful in networking. I always tell people to use this madlibs template: “My company ___________ does ___________ . There are a lot of companies that ___________ but our company is the only one that ___________ . Our customers are ___________ . “
- Have an ask: Know why you are going to a meeting, trade show, and conference. Sometimes I go to shows with a mission to learn about the sales or distribution model. My ask would be “Can you explain how you purchase services?” or “What is the process and timing to get a partnership.” Other times I am looking for customers where the ask is is more of a hard sale “We have prototyped ___________ and are looking for customers. Who would be the right person in your organization that makes purchase decisions for this category of product/service.”
- Shut up and listen: There are usually 3-5 things I can come up with on the spot with a potential partner or customer. At Livio I learned that it’s more effective to stick to one ask or comment, and let the customer do the talking. I learned a lot more and had much better results than throwing darts. I mentor a lot of startups and see this rookie mistake all the time. The startup goes into a meeting with 5 things to discuss and makes it harder to get a “yes”. Just stick to your one pitch, and listen. Often times I’ll go in with my “one idea” and after that the customer will come back with something totally different that works for me.
- Two pockets: It’s easy to get sucked into taking meetings for follow ups with people that aren’t going to get you what you want or need. This happens a lot when the company is a big one that everyone knows. It doesn’t matter what the company is, it matters what the person is responsible for and how they would be a good partner/customer of yours. With that being said, load their info into your CRM (I use Insight.ly) and if you ever need an intro to another person, you can always ask politely for that intro and make sure to ask if there’s anything you can do to help them out. At shows I usually have a blazer on. One pocket is for the business cards I keep, the other is for the cards I recycle.