Years ago a long-time client in a male dominated industry told me I was part of their "good ole' boy" network - and he wasn't talking about social either. It was "the club". Needles to say, I was flattered, but I was also shocked.
I mean, I don't play golf (yet), go fishing or attend sporting events with any of my clients.
The only answer I could come up with is . . . I develop long-term working relationships with my clients. We respect and like each other. We're team mates and, most importantly, we're friends.
Women make friends, or network, by developing relationships with their clients and getting involved in their business community and neighborhoods. The more involved you are, the more people you'll know and the more who will know you and want to do business with you, their "friend."
Obviously, join and support your local Chamber and networking groups that are both general and targeted for your market.
Here are just a few ideas for building your real-life network:
1. TREAT YOUR CLIENTS OR SUPERIORS LIKE FRIENDS. Ask about them and their families. Send birthday and anniversary cards. Send post cards from vacation with a note saying you're researching their account or your job. Invite them as a couple to dinner, plays or concerts. Here I am above with the John Kinsella, the late Don Riddle of Homestead Gardens, and Dick Hayne, founder of Urban Outfitters.
2. CULTIVATE VISIBILITY IN THE COMMUNITY. Position yourself to head a major committee or get appointed to a board of directors of a business or civic organization. At the office, get involved with projects outside your direct area of responsibility. We helped launch National Garden Month in DC.
3. BECOME A PR ACTIVIST. Send out press releases and submit articles or columns to the local newspapers. Good public relations creates great word-of-mouth.
4. ASSIST LOCAL CHARITIES THAT PUT YOU IN TOUCH WITH YOUR MARKET. Get involved in some type of cause marketing by helping a local charity. Time and talent are needed by non-profits as much as money. Your leadership and organizational skills are treasures to non-profit organizations.
5. SUPPORT YOUR CLIENTS' OR EMPLOYER'S CAUSE. This is a great opportunity to "bond" with the people you work with or for, and they'll really appreciate you for it.
6. CHAMPION OTHER WOMEN IN BUSINESS. Do business with and refer other women. Develop a female mentor and become one yourself.
6. BLOW YOUR OWN HORN. Let customers or your superiors know what you are doing. Send copies of press clippings, invitations and memos stating your involvement. It looks good for you and keeps your accomplishments up front.
Whatever you do, make a good impression. Don't get involved simply for the business contacts. Remember, by networking effectively, more people will begin to realize what a tremendous asset you are to an organization and to the good ole' . . . network.