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  • The Ultimate Networking Guide: How To Skim All The Cream
    Reading Time: 8 minutes

    Before we start, we’d like to remind you of the following:

    Networking. Is. An. Inevitable. Part. Of. Your. Business. And. It. IS. A  Business. Process. 

    That’s it. Let’s get straight to business. 

    Every person in the affiliate marketing niche knows that all the public and private events are aimed at n-e-t-w-o-r-k-i-n-g.

    Networking is such a modern *ironically* ‘business word’ that has found its honorable place in the minds of all entrepreneurs. However, the true meaning of this buzzword often appears elusive and it is frequently used in all the wrong places.

    In fact, practically we often hear that

    …Networking is crucial to marketing success.

    And they say much less about what it is, how it works, what goals are set, and what problem-solving methods are practiced.

    Most affiliates are ´self-taught professionals´. Quite often they lack corporate culture, groomed background, a basic understanding of professional liaisons. So, they understand networking in their own way and, when it comes to practice, act intuitively, and spontaneously. Someone may turn out effective due to natural sociability, and the other not so much.

    This networking manual aims to guide you through the wondrous world of professional events and answer the main question: HOW to get the most out of it?

    We will start from the very beginning.

    Lesson 1. DEFINITION

    Networking is a complex process, which includes:

    1. Extraction, collection, and data analysis; 
    2. Establishing and strengthening social connections;
    3. Acquiring useful contacts; 
    4. Reputation enhancing.

    In other words, networking IS NOT about drinking at the bar with your affiliate manager and – when you all guys reach the necessary condition – nagging them for payout bumps or the most private offers ever. Networking IS an intricate system of measures that can bring enormous benefits if applied correctly. 

    Lesson 2. Data extraction, collection, and analysis

    Communication is the very essence of an event. Many (a great lot of!) attendants show quite a careless attitude to their communication style and strategy because they do not understand their final goal. In fact critical in-house information, that can turn your business upside down, often slips away through small talks and breezy convos. In order not to miss it, you must be able to listen, ask the right questions, analyze, and structure everything that certain people say.

    Another valuable insight: THERE IS NO USELESS KNOWLEDGE. You just need to be able to use it in the right way at the right time.

    For instance:

    1. Affiliate managers can tell you about the situation inside the company, about their secret projects or releases, about the migration of managers from one company to another.

    2. Public media can help you learn what service buys more advertising today, who is willing to pay the most for placement, what are the business relations, and how is the state of the art between project: what service buys more traffic, who is willing to pay more for placement, what are the relationships between different projects and their CEOs, etc.

    3. An affiliate can give you interesting insights about his current favourite offers and tools he is using. He also can share his experience with different networks and services, preferences, and complaints.

    4. Traffic networks can provide you with info on some affiliates they have direct relations with (see ‘where they monetize unsold traffic’), as well as about regions where traffic is currently in poor demand.

    By asking the right questions (especially after a couple of beers at the bar), you can easily find out something new and valuable about the current state of the market: who is who and how they are linked, what development and growth prospects exist, etc. 

    The best info sources are (sorted by relevance order): affiliate and traffic network owners, senior management, experienced managers (usually they attend events to headhunt), top (or practically top (sic)) affiliates, drunk affiliates (great!), bloggers and media.

    ALWAYS REMEMBER that networking is about mutual benefit. No one will share priceless info with a nameless stranger. Make clear how you can be useful to your interlocutors.

    Lesson 3. Establishing, building, and strengthening ties

    If we do not take into account direct business relations and purely financial motivation, your utility, in the context of networking, can be of two types: Expertise and Communication.

    The most important action that you can apply to the information received is analyzing. Only through constant analysis does information become knowledge (and some sort of expertise).

    Here comes the networking essence: to have access to a diverse pool of useful contacts at any time and moment. 

    Lesson 4. Creating a pool of useful contacts

    A person, who has both expertise and a pool of necessary contacts, becomes unbelievably relevant, necessary, and helpful. Such people are always heard, their opinions are always appreciated, and their friendship is priceless. By the way, the ability to connect the right people together makes you indispensable.

    The entire business is based on communications.

    You never know what kind of person will be needed at a certain point in time. Top affiliates call it a  communication bonus – you quickly increase the number of acquaintances that can push your business forward and take it to a new level. At this stage, when you know everyone in the market, it’s easier for you to negotiate, get a fresh insight on the market, create a team, hire people for your projects, integrate with other services, and so on.

    Lesson 5. Loyalty increase

    Networking is about live communications and it’s very different from senseless online chatting. It is known that one phone call is more effective than week-long correspondence. So one live meeting is more effective than a week of calls.

    Business meetings with colleagues or other network reps open up great opportunities for affiliates to get better conditions, gain access to private offers and products. It will be easier to find like-minded people and form them into a team (especially if you have the expertise and necessary contacts).

    Live communication works better alongside the Affiliate <= Network vector. 

    Networks are loyal to a client if he generates demand for their offers. It works worse otherwise. A publisher can choose from a bunch of CPA networks; a CPA network is interested in EVERY publisher, as it is aimed at the maximum volume of leads. 

    In fact, for networks, services, and affiliates, participation in any niche event means a struggle for attention. Considering that the ratio of various niche services to real webmasters/affiliates is approximately 60/40 (not in favor of the latter), the networks seriously take challenges preparing for conferences.

    Lesson 6. How networks prepare for an event

    There is no unique guideline to get prepared. Every team, project,  network does preparations in its own way. For instance, some networks are used to creating teams of 7-8 people to make communications as profitable and useful as possible. Meanwhile, others usually make a small team of the most effective employees. But whilst some participants focus on the most efficient and communicative reps, others make stress on the most good-looking (i.g. pretty girls). 

    Regarding pretty girls, some exhibitors intentionally hire them specifically to attract attention at events (that results in plenty of interesting stories you might know several of ;)). Not all, but many CPA networks develop special training manuals on how to behave during public events and what’s interesting, the recommendations on behavior for men and women really are often different.   

    Some networks buy sponsorship in advance (even a year ahead). Others wait until the last moment. But anyway, all of them attend events to get results. And, frankly, webmasters really have something to learn from an organized business. 

    Network managers always plan on meetings in advance and draw up schedules with key conference attendees. There are calendaring services where you can make an appointment at a specific time and place. The schedule is usually very tough, so as not to miss anything useful.

    At the same time, support managers and product experts are literally trying to talk to EVERYONE at the conference. Their KPI often includes a number of contacts collected. Fun fact: some affiliate networks count business cards (marked what he/she does, how he/ she can be useful, etc.) collected by their managers to make a point.

    Many people, coming to the AWA/AWE first, are pleasantly surprised by the fact that neither of the managers takes a drop of alcohol until the sun sets down. And it’s the right decision because a drunk manager is equal to the inefficient manager what, consequently, is equal to throwing money away. 

    What’s more, great importance is given to appearance. Companies always try to make sure that everyone is dressed in a uniform of a brand color and according to a brand style so that there is a [brand] balance.

    Many think going to conferences is some sort of privilege for devoted employees: they travel, party, mingle and have fun.  In practice,  it can be exhausting.  From early morning until late night you are on your feet and constantly converse, with barely any breaks. Two-day conferences with afterparties usually leave only 3-4 free hours for sleep. The rest of the day, the manager should be decent, friendly, smiling, sociable, and, not the least, good-looking. 

    Chatting all day long (while collecting data, analyzing, and recording it) is more difficult than it may sound. Anyone who thinks otherwise either did not go to such events, or worked half-heartedly, or didn’t work at all.

    Among the visitors, there can be found both very sociable characters or very shy. To increase their efficiency, managers prepare several conversation scenarios in advance to stay on topic.

    Lesson 7. Communication features

    Spoiler: we do not support racism or disrespect. All the examples based on cultural differences represent individual styles of business communication.

    You also have to consider cultural differences when chatting with different people at the events. In some cultures, assertiveness and business confidence are valued the most. In others, people pay attention to how you embellish words. This, for example, concerns communication with many Indians. They are very determined entrepreneurs, but every first one tries to sweet-talk you, and convince you that he has a “leading company in the industry with 10 years of experience”. And this is not because they want to seem better than they are, no. They are mostly led by a desire to make strong and profitable business connections in a short period of time without being underestimated or imposed by stereotypes. 

    The same refers to some reps from China. Their communication style differs from that used by other business reps. They can easily make some people feel confused and disconcerted with the pressuring style of business talk. But believe us, this is only due to their persistence and strong desire to make cooperation mutually beneficial with little time expenses. 

    Sometimes you risk rushing into a person who does not know anyone at the conference except you. They are likely to follow you everywhere to be accompanied by someone familiar, or spend the whole day at your booth, trying to make an awkward conversation seem informal. One should be able to convince a person politely but persistently to try and start a conversation with someone else.

    Lesson 7. The art of spying

    Big market players understand that espionage is very diverse. Everyone wants to know everything about colleagues and rivals. It is quite common to exaggerate the real state of things at conferences: networks claim they have higher volumes and capabilities, traffic platforms add extra figures to their traffic stats.

    It is important to receive information not only firsthand but from the outside as well. Because everyone lies.

    Niche events exist so that exhibitors can show their best side. It’s easy to conclude that EVERYONE will talk ONLY GOOD things about themselves, slightly embellishing.

    To sum up: The concrete networking utility hardly can be measured, but impossible to be overestimated. Many people can’t stand collecting, storing, analyzing data, as well as using it at the right moment. Knowledge and business relations are hardly to be bought for money. Nevertheless, they contain more utility than cash. 

    Would you like to have fun or become better in the field you have chosen as your career path? Think about it every time. 

    BONUS. Gold Rules To Make Your Attendance Profitable

    1. Always have enough sleep before the event; 

    2. Try to communicate with everyone – you never know who you might meet;

    3. Do not be afraid to ask questions;

    4. Aim at processing information – one can chat like a pro but forget everything the next day; 

    5. Do not be afraid to give a reference for people you consider to be useful.  If it works, you’ll be well-regarded;

    6. Taking notes is not a shame;

    7. Take selfies with people you talk to. Images will help you  remember what you were talking about;

    8. Do not be afraid to share your knowledge (if it does not harm your business). People with expertise are always highly appreciated;

    9. Do not lose business cards. Keep all contacts saved. Even though you’re not going to use them;

    10. Be friendly, even if you’re tired;

    11. If a person does not speak English well (or you don’t understand well), do not hesitate to ask again and repeat more slowly in return. This is business communication, baby, no one will be offended;

    12. Know not to impose yourself. A person may not want to communicate even at a conference. There’s plenty of other interesting people around you;

    13. Do not abuse alcohol. Business communication has nothing to do with getting hammered.

    Have a beneficial networking time!

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