Do you have a networking strategy?
It takes time and commitment to build up and maintain an effective network, but in our experience these are resources well spent. As with so many aspects of business life, it pays to approach networking in an organised, strategic manner. Read our guide on tips to networking.
Before the Networking Event
Researching networking events before you attend to find out who will be there and what industries they are from is key. This will help you decide if the event is the right one for you. Will attending likely yo introduce you to the types of customers you are looking for?
One tip to stand out from the other networkers is by offering some invaluable information. This could be useful advice, a contact or information the person you are talking to is interested in. To help you break the ice and start conversations with others it’s a good idea to give some thought to possible conversation starters you could use.
During the event
Introducing yourself and approaching people you don’t necessarily know can be daunting. Aim to make a personal connection though talking about your hobbies or even better about their hobbies and interests. Don’t feel the need to rush into talking about work related topics or trying to sell something and when you do get round to talking about your business refrain from using jargon.
When contacts are talking, listen intently and show interest in what they are saying. Avoid getting distracted by just thinking about what to say next. This will help the conversation flow better and you to connect with the potential customers or contacts. Individuals like talking about their businesses so asking thoughtful questions is a great way to make a lasting first impression.
Remember to smile. Not only does smiling make it easier for people to connect with you because you are more open and welcoming, it also helps them remember you and your company.
If a fellow networker hands you their business card, make a positive statement rather then putting it in your pocket. By commenting on their business, it will show that you are interested in them, as opposed to just trying to making a sale.
After the event
Having done the hard bit, it is important to maintain a database of all the contacts you have met. They should be put into different categories such as potential customer, referral contact or professional advisor. This will also help you prioritise those contacts that perhaps will be the most useful to you in the future.
After the event, take the time to email the contacts you made and connect with them on LinkedIn. If you are able to make reference to their business or the service they are providing it will again demonstrate that you were listening. You stand a far better chance of developing the relationship further. This is also an opportunity for you to more formally introduce your business and explain how you could work together in the future.
To maintain successful business relationships you will need to ensure that you keep in regular contact. Consider arranging further meetings every few months, even if it is just to grab a quick coffee together. The relationships forged from networking can be invaluable to start a collaboration, partnership or take advice from someone who you consider knowledgeable. Networking doesn’t necessarily have to be frequent or time consuming. If you want your business to grow then it is something business owners need to invest time in. If you don’t, the chances are they will simply fall by the wayside.
To help evaluate and improve your networking approach why not take our Network Strategy Test.