Networking is a critical part of sales and marketing. I'm going to assume that you are actively involved in some sort of networking activity. With so many options to choose from it can get confusing.

There are some guidelines that I use when deciding where to go.

1. What is the intent of the event or organization?
2. Who are the attendees?
3. What are the logistics?

What is the intent of the event or organization?
The questions speaks to the goals and intended outcomes of the group putting on the event. Is it a group looking for exposure and they are inviting a variety of people? Maybe it's a structured networking group where the intent is to help the members connect with potential prospects. Maybe it's a true networking event where the goal is for people to connect with referral partners.

Knowing the intent can help you decide whether it is a worthwhile use of your time and energy.

Who are the attendees?
This is very important. You don't want to spend time with people who you can't help and who can't help you. There are tons of events going on all the time. And your associates and contacts are going to want you to go to the things they are interested in and think are important.

However, you have to decide for your business which groups make the most sense.

What are the logistics?
You want to know what the format, timing, commitment, and expectation is. It can sound like a good idea to go to an event or meeting until you find out that the timing is bad for you, or the level of involvement is more than you are prepared for.

Find out.

Now that you have those guidelines under your belt consider this - you want to explore so you can find out the answers to those questions. Once you've been doing some networking for a while it can get stagnant. Don't be afraid to explore other venues - even if you've tried them in the past. They may be different now.

Periodically challenge yourself to explore new opportunities. This will help you keep your outreach fresh and interesting. And don't be afraid to leave an organization or group you've been with for a while. Sometimes it is time to move on. You still like those people and will most likely stay in contact with the ones you've made a real connection with. A change of scenery can be just what your sales and marketing effort needs!

Author's Bio: 

Diane Helbig is an internationally recognized business and leadership development coach, author, speaker, and radio show host. As a certified, professional coach, president of Seize This Day Coaching, Diane helps businesses and organizations operate more constructively and profitably. Diane is the author of Lemonade Stand Selling, and the host of Accelerate Your Business Growth Radio show. She is also a Service Provider for Constant Contact.