Some people love networking, but for others, the mere thought can bring them out in hives and increase their pulse rate!
All the same networking is an essential part of the marketing mix. And as a business owner you know you have to get out there at some point, in some way, and physically meet other business owners in order for your business to succeed.
If business networking is right up there with “root canal work” or “cleaning out the garage” as “Things I’d Love to Avoid Forever,” try implementing the following 11 tips so you can rock your networking and your business marketing efforts!
- Take Stock and Figure Out Your Main Block
Whatever the main source of your discomfort, take a few steps ahead of time to compensate for your insecurities. I really will help you bolster your confidence so you can walk into your event with your head held high.
If it’s your appearance, invest in a new outfit or update your hairstyle. If it’s your conversational skills, read up on a handful of current events just before you go. If you fear being a “newbie” among seasoned pros, craft a few questions you can ask about other people’s businesses and let them do the talking.
- Step Away From Your Computer
Especially for business owners who work from home, it becomes all too easy to hide behind the computer screen and shy away from venturing out into the real world.
But marketing is most effective when it is about real, actual relationships with real, actual people—not just the versions of ourselves we present online.
- Start Small
If larger groups intimidate you, counteract the intimidation factor by starting small. Meet-ups are excellent choices for reluctant networkers. Once you’ve built up a comfort level with small events, you can try stepping up into larger gatherings.
Also look for civic and interest groups organized around topics that are already of interest to you. If you have a natural affinity for the group’s purpose or mission, you’re more likely to find common ground with other participants.
- Set Small, Realistic Goals
As with any business-related activity, it’s smart to set some goals for yourself before an event. But forget goals like “I’m going to get two new clients from this function.” Instead, set some small, realistic networking goals, such as “I will engage in at least two conversations with people I don’t already know.” Doing so will ease your fears, and give you a confidence boost for the next event.
- Think “Kindergarten”
Almost everything you need to know about successful networking, you probably already learned in kindergarten. Be considerate, use good manners, show interest in others, and listen more than you speak.
- Forget the Elevator Pitch
The well-intentioned elevator pitch sounds odd and contrived to most people. Instead, when you’re asked the inevitable “What do you do?” question, keep to the basics: what you do and who you do it for. That’s it. Use plain English, and avoid embellishing with emotional or “market-ese” words.
- Keep It Social and Personal
People don’t typically respond to professionalism in a social atmosphere. Instead, try forgetting the business context once you’re actually in the room. Focus instead on the social interaction itself—more specifically, on the person with whom you’re speaking.
One of the best questions you can ask is “How Can I Help You?” and see if there’s anything you can do to support them. Naturally, if you’re in the right room, that person will ask you the same thing.
- Make a Habit of It
Once you’ve broken the ice and successfully navigated one event, keep this in mind: One networking event does not a networker make! It’s a good start, though.
To get results, however, you need to make networking a habit. Decide on a realistic, regular goal—for instance, two or three events a month.
In fact, now that you’ve got the hang of networking do your research and find an established networking group that meets regularly and sign up to become a member. Make sure the group has a structured agenda focused on maximizing your results so you’re not just wasting time.
- Build Referral Partnerships
Remember, no-one likes to be sold to so rather than sell to the room ask if you can be connected to an ideal referral partner. This would be someone who is having the same conversations with their clients as you are but does not offer the same services. For instance, a Book Keeper and an Accountant could service the same clients and not compete with each other
- Business Cards Are Not Collectibles
Business cards are not for collecting. Instead, put those cards to use. Enter each new contact into your CRM as soon as possible after the event, and add some personal notes about where you met that person, what you discussed and any personal details you learned.
- Follow Up!
Finally, don’t forget to follow up! Successful marketing is about building long term relationships. Simply entering information into your contacts isn’t enough.
You don’t have to take every single person you meet out for lunch. You can follow up in smaller ways. Connect with your new contacts on social media, leave a comment on one of their blog posts, or forward something you think would be of interest to them via email.