Businesses grow through relationships and contacts. That is why if you have not been networking, you may be working hard, but not smart. Advertising, cold-calling, and direct mail are ways to grow your business but the old saying is true: It is not what you know, but who you know. This is the first post in a series on networking that will set you on the road to networking success.
If you aim for nothing, you will probably get nothing. Set your networking goals early and revisit them often to see if they are still working for you. Do not be afraid to modify, revise, or scrap one if it just is not the right one. Here are some to get you started:
My networking goals are to:
– Connect with other business owners for advice, tips, ideas, and support
– Create a solid and reliable network of suppliers
– Access a wider client base
– Build confidence in myself and my business
– Learn about my industry, trends, and changes
After you have established your networking goals, the next step is determining how to effectively execute on them. That means figuring out what tools are at your disposal. Here is a rundown of some tools you can use for effective networking. Choose based on your goals – which of this will be the best option for you?
– Business card s are a great way to offer potential clients or business partners something tangible. They are perfect for networking events and client leave-behinds. Make sure your cards reflect who you are, what your business does, and the quality of your work. They should be eye-catching but not obnoxious, informative but not cluttered.
– Websites are a 21st century storefront. Most people look to the web to find you and you should be there when they come calling. Building a simple homepage is easy and offers people another dynamic way to connect with your business.
– Social media is changing the way business is done. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are excellent methods to getting your brand and name in front of hundreds of potential clients and business partners. Link all three and throw in your website and you'll have a powerhouse of networking tools working for you.
Once you have a plan for reaching your networking goals and chosen a method to do so, you must add the last component for success: people. Now you know that businesses grow through relationships and contacts: It is not what you know, but who you know. Positive recommendations and referrals are gold to your business – treat them well and reap the rewards. This is the last post in a series on networking that will set you on the road to networking success.
– The elevator pitch is still a critical piece of your networking arsenal. You should be able to succinctly describe your business in an engaging way. There is no one-size-fits-all pitch – tailor it to the specific audience.
– Networking events bring together loads of opportunities for you. Prepare your pitch, bring a handful of business cards, and bump up your confidence. Be interested and interesting as you meet people. Exchange cards with a comment about how you might be able to help the other person. Follow up in a few days with an email.
– Networking groups are a regular consistent way to connect with others. Choose a group that fits what you want in terms of size, time commitment, industries represented, and goals.
Remember: establish your networking goals, fill your toolbox with the most effective methods to achieve your goals, and build your network with resourceful contacts. Be sure to evaluate your success often and change what does not work.