10 Business Networking Tips
Here are ten tips that can make your business networking more effective.
Business networking can be a very effective, low-cost marketing method for creating sales opportunities through personal introductions and the development of new contacts, resulting in referrals and introductions.
As a side benefit, you may also create a good number of new friendships.
Simply attending events is not networking.
Like any other worthwhile marketing program, you have to put some effort into it.
Try many different groups
Different groups have different focuses, as well as overall atmospheres.
If you’ve had a chance to attend different meetings, you’ll soon find out that they come in many shapes and sizes.
You need to find a group that matches not only your targeted group, but also your personality.
Some groups have strict rules regarding attendance, number of referrals, and industry restrictions.
Others focus more on fellowship and community service, while others, such as Chamber of Commerce organizations, focus on business to business networking.
All can provide a benefit to your company, but if your focus is on immediate growth, visit groups that provide the best opportunity to meet business owners that can either use your services directly, or provide you with referrals.
Most groups will allow you to visit one or two times before having to make a decision about joining.
Notice the tone and attitude of the group.
Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Are the members inviting and friendly?
Ask colleagues/other business owners
Leverage your existing business relationships to develop a list of groups that you want to test.
Find out which ones they are involved in, and get their feedback. Why do they enjoy being a member of that group?
If they belong to an organization that you would like to check out, ask to join them at an event.
Create a target list
Do some homework to determine which of the group members would be a great natural fit for your business, not just to provide leads to you, but also those where you can reciprocate with potential business.
Make a concerted effort to be introduced to those on your target list, or take the initiative to introduce yourself.
Set a minimum goal
Before each event you attend, make a goal of the number of new contacts you want to make.
This number will change based on the type of event being held.
For a small, intimate event you might make a goal to meet four good contacts.
For a larger event, you’re goal could be increased to ten.
These should be good contacts, with substantial discussion. Simply getting a business card doesn’t count.
Whenever possible, go to events with a colleague or other business owner that you know. Leverage each other to introduce your networking partner to other business owners at the event.
Speak highly about the service/product that your networking partner provides, and let them do the same about you. Hearing the praises coming from a third party have a bigger impact than when they come from you.
Practice your pitch
In order to get the most out of your new contacts, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others. In most cases, a networking group member will ask you point blank, “So, what do you do?”
Be prepared with a clear description of what you do, practising it enough times so that it comes out naturally. Don’t be afraid to add at the end, “And a great referral for me would be XXX.”
Ask how you can help them
While the main purpose of networking is to grow your business, making a concerted effort to find out how you can help others can make a big impact on how quickly you’ll receive referrals from other members.
After all, the other members are there to grow their business, and if you show that you’re genuinely interested in helping them, they will be more willing to help you.
Follow up in a timely manner
Within 24 hours, send your new contacts an email, reinforcing how much you enjoyed meeting them and learning more about their business.
When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them.
Respect and honour that and your referrals will grow.
Follow up with each new contact by inviting them to join your growing network on LinkedIn. Don’t use the default message. Remind the person that you met them at a recent event.
Like their page on Facebook, and any other social media network that you are a member of.
When you find a group that you really like, get involved as quickly as you can.
Volunteer to help at events, become an ambassador, or if so inclined, show your desire to become a member of the board of directors.
This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.