Networking is defined as connecting and communicating with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. In business, networking is one of the most essential keys to increasing the awareness of a newly developed establishment. It is important to know how to network, where to network, and how to plan out your course of action. Here are 10 tips any busy owner can easily use to become better at networking their business to new clients.
1. Figure out where to network.
Understanding your target market is important in order to find out where you need to network. Whether you do business locally or outside of your immediate area, you can find out who they are, what they like, and more importantly, the best way to give them information about your business. A business owner could figure out what industries are aligned or work directly with his industry, and start from there. Figuring out what other industries your product or business works with and going to their events is a quick and easy way you can begin networking with others.
2. Contact the Chamber of Commerce
Joining the Chamber of Commerce in your local community will put you in environments where you can meet potential clients. The Chamber of Commerce was tailormade specifically for local business owners so they can communicate with each other and establish business relationships. You may want to e-mail your local chamber and be asked to be put on their mailing list. This way you can receive regular notifications on where the next event is going to occur.
3. Join a Leads Group
A lead group is a business association in which members regularly communicate with each other for the purpose of giving and getting potential clients. There are many lead groups, and some do charge a fee, so it is important to do research on all lead groups before joining. You are more likely to get leads if you give leads to the group because they will likely feel the need to reciprocate.
4. Plan Your Work And Work Your Plan
One of my mentors once said, “Plan your work, and work your plan.” You are more likely to achieve your desired goal if you have a game plan. Why are you there? Who do you want to meet? What do you hope to accomplish? These are questions a business owner should be asking themselves before going to any networking event. Creating a clear and concise plan within your mind helps you understand what your goals are. Find some of the other attendees and try to establish a relationship with them prior to the event. This way you can begin to pre-plan any other questions you may have prior to professional interactions.
5. Sum yourself up in 30 seconds or less.
Do you have an elevator pitch? The difficulty of networking is figuring out the best way to sell yourself within a limited amount of time. If your introduction is too short, you may leave out vital information. If it is too long, you may initially grab their interest but lose potential clients when your message is too long. The key to communicating when trying to create business relationships is to create a concise monologue that gives a clear answer to who you are, what you do and who you do it for. Remember to practice, practice, and practice some more until it becomes second nature.
6. The Only Thing To Fear is Fear Itself
You won’t create any new leads or potential clients by not communicating. Remember this is a gathering specifically for business. It is important to introduce yourself and try to find people to talk to. Get to know the person you are talking to. Ask questions and let them lead the conversation. Not every conversation is going to turn into a business opportunity, but it does allow you to explain who you are and what you do to another business owner. Become genuinely interested in other people’s business and you’ll be surprised how the floodgates of information open up. After hearing them talk about themselves and their business, then they will want to reciprocate and talk about your business.
7. Bring Business Cards and Magnets
With social media websites and emails, we sometimes forget that being able to hand someone something physically still draws attention. Business cards are still a classic way to give potential clients all of your information. It is still a virtually inexpensive way to make it easy for clients to contact you. Include your name, website, email and phone number. However, if you want to take your networking up a notch, invest in some business card magnets. People are more likely to keep your magnet and put it on their refrigerator, than a business card.
8. Follow up is the key to real networking.
Around 95 percent of people do not follow up with potential clients after networking. This is why following up with any potential client you meet can immediately set you apart from any of the other business owners they may have met the day of the event. A business owner should follow up with a potential client within 48 hours of the initial meeting. You may want to consider using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management Software). One that comes with a lot of bells and whistles and is free to use is bitrix24.
9. Grow Your LinkedIn Connections
Unlike Twitter, Facebook or Instagram the sole purpose of LinkedIn is to establish professional relationships and to network. There are groups that exist within LinkedIn that make it possible to communicate with other people who specifically deal with businesses within your industry. Take time out to personalize your messages. It lets the potential lead know you are specifically interested in their business as opposed to appearing as if you are sending messages to every profile you encounter. Commenting on their post would also help to personalize your interactions.
10. Be Patient and Think Long Term.
I don’t believe that every relationship you establish will lead to sales or new business. But it is still important to work on each of those relationships individually. We as business owners are eager to sell our product or service as soon as we develop our relationship, but it is important to remember that people will buy when they want to, not when we want them to. You never know when a potential client will be ready to work with you. Even if after several meetings your leads may not be interested in doing business with you, they still have the potential to introduce you to other potential leads. Touch bases with your networking business connections every 30 days as to not lose your influence.
11. Wear A Name Tag
Most people forget a person’s name within the first 30 seconds of an introduction. However, many networking experts agree that you are more likely to be remembered if you wear a name tag to an event. This is why it’s important to invest a few dollars into a professional name tag and wear it to every event.
If you want more business you need to network, communicate, and meet new people. Introduce yourself at any opportunity. As stated before, every interaction you have won’t lead to new business, but creating those relationships will let more people know about your business. Contact your Chamber of Commerce, join a lead group and become an active member on LinkedIn. Harness those communication skills, pass out business cards and your other marketing material. Get ready to introduce yourself (and more importantly your business) to the world!
Written by Noemi Chavez