Networking is important, it’s the most effective and least expensive marketing tool you have as a business. A lot of business owners when you ask them about networking, majority will say they don’t like it. It’s like Marmite you either love it or hate it!
It seems to be a popular method now to do business with others, either face to face at a networking meeting or online via social media etc. We all need to connect to each other somehow, even if the word networking scares you. One way of networking may not work for one but will for another, so its finding what works for you.
Here are some great tips I have researched to networking and getting yourself known:
1. Choose the right networking group – Not every group you go to will be right for you, so when starting out trial a few groups. Make sure that the people you meet in these groups share your interests or could potentially become your client.
2. Relationships – While at your meeting develop relationships, networking is not about selling. It is about forming relationships with others in the group, that can develop into sales or referrals. Most people approach networking that the first time visiting they will get a client or a sale. People will do business with those they know and trust.
3. Dress – Always dress professionally and appropriately, establish yourself as a successful person. It does not mean you have to dress up in expensive clothes, but leave the comfy baggy trousers at home.
4. Be Prepared – When preparing to go to a meeting, always make sure you are prepared. Have plenty of business cards, postcards or brochures are also effective. Also have a 10 to 15 second short description of what it is you do. Most meetings will allow you some allocated time to get up and speak about your business and what you do.
5. Listening & Questions – When speaking with others at the meeting, always ask questions about what it is they do and listen. This is important to find commonality, that you can bring into the conversation. You want to make sure you’re in the right group for you, and to build relationships on common interests.
6. Speak with everyone – With the walk around part of the meeting, make sure you speak to people you know to keep making progress on that relationship. However, if you see new people make sure you introduce yourself to them and build new relationships. Good opening line I find is “May I join you?”
7. Give to Get – Don’t focus on what others can do for you, but what you can do for them. Perhaps you offer a service they require, so tell them how you can help them with this. Make the person a referral and exchange business cards, make contact with them after the meeting.
8. Follow up – Always follow through if you meet someone, and say you will email them about a service or product. Remember this is your reputation, and people do talk. Also, people you have met will have forgotten who you are after a couple of days, so it’s good to keep their memory of you fresh. You will form a relationship with this person so when you attend the next meeting, you’re not having to start all over again with them. You can carry on building a great business relationship, that potentially they can become a client.
When you network online you can follow the same tips, finding the groups, forums and using social media. You need to conduct yourself in the same manner, and build your online relationships.
So, open up google and search business networking meetings local to you and I am pretty sure there will be a few you could attend. Also use the powers of Facebook and Twitter, most meetings will also have a social media page.
Myself being a virtual assistant, I find networking a huge task as I do this locally and online to cover the whole of the UK. At first it can be daunting, but I am growing in confidence and meeting all kinds of people not just in the UK. LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with people so I do recommend having a profile, and finding people who you have common ground with.