Networking is probably the most effective and least expensive marketing method you can use to build your business or practice, especially if you are looking to do business in your local area.
Lots of business owners and practitioners I meet say that they don’t like to network, they don’t have the time to network, or they haven’t found it to be beneficial to their business in the past.
You can learn to like networking, especially if you learn to do it properly and start getting results from your networking and if you’re currently not getting any results from your networking then you are probably getting it wrong somewhere, going to the wrong network or you may just have unrealistic expectations about the timing of results.
I do a lot of networking both online and off.
As a natural people person who likes to talk, networking is relatively easy for me. But even if you’re a bit on the shy side or have reservations about the potential for success with business networking, you can gain value from your networking, if you follow certain guidelines.
I have compiled some business networking tips that can ensure your networking success and ask that if you want to network with search for Mike Armstrong or Michael Armstrong from MA Consultancy / WelshBiz / Mike Armstrong News on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and I would be happy to connect.
Before looking at my Business Networking Tips the first tip for any Sales & Marketing activity is to work on a strategy or plan for that activity. So before you go Networking have a strategy in place.
- Know who you are looking to meet and what you are looking for.
- Be clear on what your business needs and what it can offer.
- Have a plan for following up, contacting and meeting with the people that you meet.
Choose the right business network!
If you Networking in the wrong network, with the wrong people for you and your business then it can be hard to get any traction. Specialist Networking Organisations, Chambers of Commerce, men’s and women’s organisations, niche networking groups, special interest groups, placed you can volunteer at and membership clubs, buying groups & associations are all potential choices.You can also find a local MeetUp.com group in your area that might appeal to you or another specific event on Eventbrite. Business Expo’s & Conferences are also a great place to do a lot of Business Networking all in one day or over a few days.
“You might need to kiss a few frogs before you find the Prince.”
Networking Tips – 2
Choose the right venues!
Not every group of people will be right for you and neither will all locations. Choose groups where people congregate who share your interests and/or are potential clients. Find a location that your are comfortable in and that suits your needs. Also find somewhere close to you or your place of work so you can attend regularly and not miss events.
Networking Tips – 3
Choose the Right Time to Network!
Networking like a lot of things is about how much effort, consistency and momentum you can put in.
“The more you put in the more you can get out!“
So choose a regular business networking event that fits comfortably in to your working week so that you can consistently attend.
Networking Tips – 4
Develop relationships, friendships etc.!
Networking is not about giving it the hard sell. It more about building relationships and friendships with like minded people, that can lead to sales, referrals or even partnerships & collaborations further down the line. The idea is to get to know people, their products & services and their values and to allow them to get to know you, your business, your products & services and your values.
Often, people approach business networking a Sales strategy, with the hope of making a sale or getting a client straight away.
That’s not how it works.
People do business with those they know, like and trust and share a similar value system. It can take time to build up that knowledge and trust.
So approach a business networking event without any expectation of getting new business.
“Go networking with the idea of meeting new people, making friendships with likeminded people, learning some things and having some fun and see what happens from there!“
Networking Tips – 5
Dress appropriately and professionally for the venue, event and your business!
The way you appear can establish yourself as a successful person or not as the case may be. If you dress the part then you’ll also feel the part and this will come across to those who you are Networking with. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy pants at home.
“If necessary, get advice from an image consultant or a fashion savvy friend.“
Networking Tips – 6
Always be prepared with lots of Professional Looking Business Cards!
Make sure you bring plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Brochures or printed postcards can also be effective.
Networking Tips – 7
Always be prepared with a short, sharpe & concise description of what you do!
You should have a 10 or 15 seconds Elevator description of what you do for meeting people briefly at Networking events as well as a 1 minute and 5 minute more detailed and comprehensive version for occasions when you are invited to present your business is an allotted time slot. Remember to include your professional expertise and USP’s (unique selling points), etc.
“When working on this always the remember – what’s in it for me, the thing the other people will be thinking about as you tell them, and make this as good as you can for them and you’ll have their interest.”
Networking Tips – 8
Use Ice Breakers & Build rapport before going onto Business!
People need to relax and feel comfortable before they open up.
“Ask people about Themselves, Their Family, Holidays, Favourite Sports, Hobbies, Interests & Teams etc. Before you discuss business in order to relax people and get them to open up more.”
*You can also relax people and build trust by smiling and maintaining eye contact.
Networking Tips – 9
Ask good questions and listen to the answers!
You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Rather, ask people you meet questions about them and their business, then listen carefully to their answers. Find points of commonality that you can bring into the conversation.
“Look for problems that you can solve or solutions that you can provide, or a common business objective or shared cakes that could allow a partnership or collaboration.
Networking Tips – 10
Sit with, stand with or engage with people that you don’t know!
Many events have walk-around networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the walk-around, do talk to people you have met before to enhance your relationship, but sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers, lead referral partners or collaborators.
“You can speak to those that you already know, after the networking event or in an arranged follow up meeting at another time.
Networking Tips – 11
Talk to people who are standing alone!
People attend networking events to meet others. If someone is standing alone, that’s the perfect opportunity to make a new contact. You might want to start the conversation by saying, “May I join you” or “I’ve not met you before, what’s your name”.
“People often feel awkward at Networking Events and as networking is about building relationships and trust, if you can help them out of an awkward situation then you are well on your way with that person.”
Networking Tips – 12
Move on – politely!
Don’t spend all of your time talking to one person. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards, if appropriate, and move on.
I often say, “I’d like to meet some more new people now. It’s been a great speaking to you.” And then move off!
Networking Tips – 13
Remember that givers get!
Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you.
Networking Tips – 14
Don’t just walk around collecting business cards.
Take time to meet people, engage with them and see if you can help each other rather than just collecting cards for a database or mass email campaign etc.
Networking Tips – 15
In a room full of others what makes you & your business stand out from the crowd?
You can bring props, not just marketing materials and business cards, something that visually shows off your expertise or helps others to understand what it is that you do.
Where possible, always provide the person you are referring to with a way of getting in touch directly with your contact, maybe cc them into an email, check back on progress and see if it was of value.
If you were introduced or recommended by someone, keep the person who made the introduction up to date with the progress/outcome.
If it was successful, a positive action would be to thank them publicly at the next meeting, as this not only demonstrates to others that the network is working, it can help to build both your and the referrer’s credibility within the group.
If an introduction wasn’t relevant, provide feedback as to the reasons why and how they can identify more positive referrals in the future for you.
If you would like to network with, meet, discuss a partnership or a collaboration with me please call: 07960 872549.
If you are interested in getting involved in any of the below events or opportunities please give me a call on 07960872549.