Anyone involved in affiliate marketing knows that you can’t gain new affiliates, business partners or industry knowledge without plenty of interaction — and that means occasionally abandoning your computer chair for genuine, person-to-person networking. You’ll find a veritable feast of major networking opportunities throughout 2014, including Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas, Affiliate Summit East in New York City, Affiliate Management Days in San Francisco, and Performance Marketing Insights Europe in Berlin. But if you don’t network by nature, you might not know how to do it effectively — you might even fear it. Let’s examine some networking dos and don’ts that will help you work the room like a pro.
Do come prepared. Bring more business cards than you could ever imagine needing, because you’ll need them. Supplemental materials such as brochures may impart more information, but they take up more space in the swag bag and they might prove harder for your new friends to scan or store when they go back home.
Don’t throw business cards at everybody in sight. If someone walks up to you and shoves a business card into your hand unbidden, do you feel a strong urge to keep that card or even get to know its owner? Most of us resent that kind of behavior, not least because it shows no genuine desire to connect. Get into a lively conversation, and then ask the other person for their business card. If they want your card, they’ll probably ask for it at that point. If not, you’ve saved a card for someone else who cares.
Do listen. Successful networkers turn their attention toward their conversation partners and listen intently to what those individuals have to say. Human nature dictates that we take kindly to those who seem interested in us — and we then feel more disposed to return that interest. When each person values the other’s input, that’s when they discover common goals, overlapping target markets, and golden opportunities to collaborate on the next big thing.
Don’t bore people. Much like the stereotypical bad date, unsuccessful networkers yammer on about themselves without letting their conversation partners get a word in edgewise. They may not even bother to check for signs of wandering attention, boredom or even simmering anger. You’ve had conversations with this guy before. Don’t be him.
Do ask lots of questions. The more questions you ask of the folks you network with, the more you can learn about their affiliate programs, products, clients, and the industry itself. If you think someone might make a good future client or colleague, ask leading questions to steer the conversation gently in that direction. “Oh, you’re currently involved with that program? How’s that working out for you? Have you been considering other options?”
Don’t monopolize people’s time. Networking means mingling, so try not to glom onto one person for an extended p
eriod — you’re limiting their (and your) ability to mix. Chat for a couple of minutes, exchange cards, and then give your conversation partner a sign that he’s free to start another conversation with someone else.
Do adapt networking to your introverted personality. Introverts find extended socializing an exhausting experience, but if you consider yourself a member of this segment of the population, you must break out of your comfort zone and position yourself where the money is. So how do you make networking less of an ordeal? Pace yourself by dipping in and out of the event or deciding beforehand how long you will stay. Come up with some jokes, anecdotes, questions, and other conversation starters to keep yourself in the game. You may find that you feel surprisingly at ease and in control.
These basic tips will help ensure a productive, enjoyable time when you frequent affiliate marketing events, local chamber luncheons or weekly networking meetings. But now you have to implement them — so get out there and get yourself connected!