The Society for Marketing Professional Service (SMPS) provides many really effective networking opportunities. In the online community, you can also consider the Design and Construction Network.
Mel Lester's latest E-Quip Blog provides some basic, but important, reminders about why and how to network effectively in business. Among other points, he reminds us that service and relationships rather than "selling" are at the core of successful networking.
Serve those in your network. Helping others is a great way to build relationships and, of course, to build service businesses like yours. Networking often fails to yield satisfying results when it is approached from a self-serving perspective. When you interact with others for the primary purpose of uncovering sales leads, it's common to find your network become increasingly unproductive. But when you are motivated to help others, most people are inclined to reciprocate. Serving your network includes:
- Providing timely information
- Making introductions and referrals
- Sharing ideas and advice
- Helping others succeed!
Here, in my opinion, things become as complex as the wildest and most obscure mathematical equation. Great networks after all are multi-dimensional. Your relationship quality and depth will vary, the person within your network will have varying levels of influence, and your influence with that person (and his or her own network) will vary depending on expertise, chance, personality, and how generous you are in sharing rather than taking.
And you can add another variable to the mix: The velocity of network development has accelerated with online resources, at the extreme measured in minutes with your number of Twitter followers.
I suppose you can measure the number of people you do something good for, the number of calls you return, the number of referrals you share, and the like. These measurements might encourage you to do more of the right thing. And it you are mathematically inclined, you might want to work out some Game Theory equations or the like to connect the dots and explain why and how you should network more effectively.
But that belies the point. Networking, to be successful, must be indirect and selfless. However it never hurts to be selfless in an environment where you can ultimately receive some returns for your efforts. That's why I advocate, especially for business-to-business marketers, that you participate in relevant associations and groups where your clients and potential clients congregate.