Any small business owner will agree that networking is a vital part of running a business. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to wear yourself out by turning up to every event that comes your way. Effective networking can save you time and money and more importantly, help you get important business leads that will drive your business forward.
Define your goals – Before you set off for your networking event, it is vital to determine what you hope to achieve from it. Are you looking to raise your company profile? Connect with a particular individual? Perhaps you are aiming to push sales of a particular product or service? If you don’t set out clear goals before your event, it is unlikely that you will achieve anything worthwhile.
Take your time – Effective networking requires strong levels of trust and understanding and can therefore take time. Rather than trying to sell to everyone in the room, choose someone you think will be a good connection, initiate a connection with them and then work on building this relationship. It is important to remember that the real return comes in the medium to long term, not when you first meet.
Know your audience – If you want your networking efforts to be successful, it’s imperative that you are talking to the right people. As a rule, those you want to connect with are; people who are your ideal clients, people who know your ideal clients and/or people who do business with your ideal clients. Every time you sign up for a networking event ask yourself if it’s a good fit for your business and whether or not you think you will get good quality leads from it.
Focus on quality, not quantity – You can guarantee that the vast majority of people who attend networking events run around all night trying to talk to as many people as they possibly can and then wonder why nothing comes of it. When networking, you want to talk to someone for long enough to establish a meaningful connection so they actually remember who you are and value what you had to say. Whilst it’s always a good idea to speak to more than one or two people, focus on the quality of the contacts you are making rather than the quantity.
Network anywhere and everywhere – You don’t have to be at a pre-planned networking event to meet potentially life-changing contacts. Regardless of whether you’re at a business meeting, in a pub, coffee shop, at a friend’s house or even start talking to a stranger in a queue – these events all require talking which means you are networking. People often find that the best opportunities come from the individuals and places they least expect.
Do you have any valuable tips for effective networking? Feel free to share your advice with us below.