The Art of Networking: 8 Tips for creating a network of contacts as a business owner
Networking events are a great way to spread the word about your business and get new clients. Thus, it is a powerful business-to-business tool that you can incorporate in your everyday life. And although it might be awkward at first, it is a skill that can be mastered and perfected.
Here are some tips that will help you to succeed in the networking arena.
1) Get in the right mindset
Before arriving at any networking event, remember that you are going to that place to meet new contacts to help you grow. Be open and have a friendly attitude.
Although it might seem intimidating to venture into a place where everyone is a stranger, remember they are there for the same reason, to meet other people. Be confident and creative when approaching others.
2) Be prepared with an elevator speech
One of the best ways to relieve the anxiety is to have an "elevator speech” prepared beforehand.
An "elevator pitch" is a brief description of your business and the value it offers to customers. The goal is to be able to say this discourse in a conversational way in 60 seconds or less. This way, you will be able to promote your brand in an easy and effective way.
Create your speech and practice it before going to the networking event. Ask friends and family to listen to it and help you perfect and work out any issues. Above all, remember practice makes perfect. Find ways to introduce your speech into everyday interactions, that way you will be used to using it when going to a networking event.
3) Have questions prepared beforehand
Awkward silences are one of the most dreadful aspects of networking events. The key to avoid them is to be prepared with questions to keep the conversation going.
Prepare a series of questions before you go to a networking event, think about subjects and topics that you would like to discuss and be prepared to ask about them.
Although you are there to build your business, is important to have a genuine interest in the people you are connecting with. The strongest impressions usually come from people that can talk about topics beyond work, and take a genuine interest in their fellow networkers.
4) Bring a friend
It’s a lot easier to be social when you have a support system. If you are fortunate enough to have started your company with someone else, you already have a built-in networking companion.
Bringing someone along that knows about your business to the networking event will help you calm your nerves and facilitate interactions with other attendees.
5) Attend Conferences for Small Business
Small Business Conferences are a great way to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and to create opportunities to make valuable connections.
Furthermore, it will give you the opportunity to gain insight from the movers and shakers of your industry, and at the same time, find new ways to help your business move forward.
Many conferences can be attended by paying a small fee, or even for free. Make sure to look into your Chamber of Commerce for more information on upcoming opportunities.
6) Explore exhibit at an exhibition or trade show
If you decide to take a more active role in creating networks, investing in an exhibition or trade show may be an option for you.
Trade shows are an excellent way to display your products to both the public and to other business owners. Because of the format of trade shows, you can have a bigger exposure to your future contacts and allow for a deeper understanding of you and your business and the benefits they would get when having you as a contact in their network.
7) Always have enough business cards
Business cards are essential to the creation of networks, especially if you are attending a conference for small businesses, joining a local networking event or participating in a trade show as an exhibitor.
Your business card will provide the recipient with your contact information, and can also strengthen your brand by making it unforgettable. Also, always having enough cards in your pocket will enable you to take advantage of unexpected opportunities; remember that you should be always looking for new people to add to your network of professional contacts.
8) Follow up
All your efforts are worthless without an “after the event” follow-up. It is very important that you email everyone you met in an event within 24-hours. More importantly, make sure to remind your new contact who introduced you, or any interesting topic you chatted about. If you did not have chance to chat, just say thank you for exchanging their business card or comment on some interesting content from your new contact’s website. If you find it interesting, try to schedule an appointment to share mutual business opportunities or refer one of your current clients that could be benefited with their services.
Creating a network is an essential and fun part of developing a small business. Take time to review these tips before you leave for your next networking event and you will be ready to make a lasting first impression.
For more opportunities and information on how to grow your business, head over our insight section and see all the interesting resources we have prepared for you.