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Want to land more clients and grow your business? Here’s what you do…

You find an industry association or similar group in your area. You attend the monthly meetings. You network and schmooze as best you can in the hopes of meeting a few potential clients. You follow up on those contacts and try to convert them into new clients.

Sound familiar?

Networking like that is one of the oldest business development techniques around.

The problem is, it doesn’t work very well.

Think about it. You’re going to a meeting in the hopes that, by chance, you’ll run into a prospect and, by chance, he’ll be interested in your services and, by chance, you’ll be able to build that relationship until he becomes a new client.

I’d rather bet on a horse race. I’d have a better chance of winning!

Now, I know there are some people who are really, really good at networking. They can walk into a room full of strangers, mingle and have several great conversations and, occasionally, even land a new client.

For them, networking comes naturally.

But in my experience, the vast majority of business owners — me included — are not like that. For us, networking — at least the kind of schmoozing that is focused on meeting new prospects — is uncomfortable and ultimately ineffective.

So what does work?

I have a friend who is a networking expert. And he says the key to effective networking isn’t mingling at meetings. The key is to look for ways to position yourself in front of that group as an expert at what you do.

Say, for example, you’re a fundraising consultant and copywriter. And there’s a local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in your area. What are some ways you could quickly position yourself to that group as a go-to expert?

Well, you could:

  • Do an evening presentation on writing effective fundraising letters.
  • Be one of the speakers on an upcoming panel on the topic of internet fundraising.
  • Contribute articles, tips and other content to the chapter website and newsletter.
  • Share a quick tip on fundraising copywriting in front of the group at all the regular meetings. (I have a coaching client who may be doing this very soon.)
  • Co-author a special report or booklet on fundraising copywriting that is published and sold by the chapter.
  • Volunteer to create and moderate a LinkedIn group for the chapter.
  • Hold an after-meeting coaching clinic, where you help members with their fundraising letters.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

The lesson here is not to rely simply on mingling to meet prospects one at a time, but to look for ways to leverage your involvement in the group to get yourself known very quickly to all the membership.

The more members get to know you and appreciate your expertise, the more opportunities — in the form of new leads and referrals — you’re likely to get.

Like I said earlier, networking sucks. Unless you do it this way!