Without a doubt, effective networking continues to be one of the best marketing tools with which to build a name for your business. Even if you are not naturally a person who likes to make ‘small talk’, you can still contribute positively to your company profile by following these five principles:
- Attend events with people who could be potential clients, and have a shared interest in your business field. Do your research and be on the lookout for special interest groups and conferences in your area that will appeal to you and your business.
- Develop and maintain healthy relationships. Business networking is about relationships – not selling. Once you have made an acquaintance at an event, make a concerted effort to get to know them. Invite them to a game of golf or a business dinner to allow them to get to know you too. Remember the old adage: people do business with those they know and trust.
- Dress for success. First impressions do last – don’t undervalue the importance of looking presentable and make sure to dress the part. It’s important to leave potential business partners and clients with the impression that you are professional and seriously minded when it comes to your business and related opportunities. By the same token, any material that you give out or refer new connections to – from business cards, to a company profile, to press releases – should be equally well presented and professionally written, as it is an extension of you and your brand communications.
- Be prepared. Always have your elevator speech ready and know how to sell yourself and your business with confidence. If you believe it, and live it on a day-to-day basis, you will come across as believable no matter who you’re talking to. They will get the sense that you are enthusiastic about your line of business which will spur them on to be a part of it. Conversely, ask people questions that go beyond the same old ‘so what do you do’ question, and listen attentively to their answers so you will be able to ask open-ended questions.
- Make sure you learn the art of effectively following up. Once you have made a good connection with a person at an event, make a point of keeping in contact afterwards. Exchange business cards and send a short note to say you enjoyed meeting them. If you talked about something at the event and you find an interesting article online, or perhaps have a data report you think they might find informative, send that along. The idea is to be sincere, genuinely connect and build the relationship over time. This is foundational to any successful and mutually rewarding business association.
Take time to develop sound relationships with people who are of interest to you. It’s definitely a process that will bear fruit – sometimes immediately, but often will prove very beneficial over time.
Proudly brought to you by the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC).