If you attend enough networking events in Phoenix, you may start feeling a bit of deja vu — like you’ve had the same conversation with the same person before. The truth is you have. People start blurring together because we seem to have the same archetypes that we fall into over and over again.
My target audience is mainly women business owners so I tend to network at women’s groups. Here are my list of the top five women that you have probably networked with:
1) The Suit – She is usually a banker or a financial representative of some sort. She is well intentioned and you can feel the excitement that she has for simply being out of the office. She also tends to be the most over-dressed women at any given networking event. If you give her your card…she will follow up with you. There is not a lot that she can do for you unless you are a larger business but damn it if she is not going to try. The biggest challenge for these women…you all sound the same to us business owners. For the ones who really do care, they often end up switching companies (because they end up frustrated working in the system), which only adds to our confusion.
Really understanding the difference between banks is something that business owners tend struggle with. Which is too bad. A good banker or FR can be a great asset…but it requires us to talk about money, which frankly, we are not good at.
2) The Sexy Networker – These women fall into two breeds — if you are in North Scottsdale you are looking at more of a cougar line, and outside of Scottsdale you tend to find the young women sales rep. They’re just trying to stand out. Mainly an evening mixer kind of gal, they have helped blur the lines between networking and adult kegger. It’s hard to take them seriously (sorry ladies), especially since their marketing efforts mainly consistent of photos of themselves. If your “brand” mainly consists of posed photos of you, then you’re not really building the value for how your business is going to help me. It works for awhile, but in the long term it is not a great business strategy. The non-business owners in this category tend to be selling marketing, mainly digital marketing. They can’t understand why any small business would not be pouring money into pay-per-click ads.
3) The Corporate Cast Away – She recently left her job in corporate America. Her enthusiasm during her 30-second commercial is palpable as she describes her new mission to help women as a coach / speaker / networking group leader / non-profit founder. I find they like to wear scarves, like a flag on their newly-launched ship away from corporate America.
4) The Powerplayer — She knows everyone, and you probably know this because she told you. She rarely attends events alone and often drags everyone from her office or other networking group along with her. Every group has a darling. This women is usually it. As an outsider, she seems challenging to approach, but if you work up the courage she is a good person to know. Normally, she is easily spotted by her unique clothes or shoes. She has the kind of confidence that allows her to pull off outfits that make you go…huh…I wish I could do that.
5) The Believer — I know network marketing is a great strategy for a lot of women, but for those of us who don’t fit into this category, it is challenging to sit beside the recently-recruited network marketer who is 100% convinced that you absolutely need to try their juice / vitamin / skin product. (No I don’t, thank you.) You can always tell the difference between the senior network marketers and the recent recruits. If you have a conversation with an experienced network marketer…well, you have actually had a conversation. The new believers rarely do anything outside of describe their product or service. There is a new breed out there of corporations who are using a Kool-aid culture to recruit, which is smart, but they often have the same problem…they talk about themselves and how great their organization is which ends up coming across incredible forced. We get it — you’re WACKY! Take notes from the successful marketers: Listen, and focus on value.
Alright, maybe this list might come across a little bitchy. I am willing to admit I have fallen into each of these roles myself at different times. The point is, we have some amazingly unique women in the valley. If we break out of these stereotypes and have real discussions and connect in more meaningful ways, then our community will be stronger.
So don’t settle for anything short of the label that you want to give yourself. If you want to be a better networker, then stand out (no, I don’t mean do something wacky during your 30-second commercial). Ask good questions, get involved, question norms, connect with what you’re really good at and communicate it well.