What kind of results do you expect from your business networking efforts? Do you aim to establish valuable connections with the right people, connect with prospective customers and clients, or expand your circle of business contacts? Whatever your goals may be, business networking offers endless opportunities to reach them – if you know how to network effectively. Here are some top strategies to help you build valuable connections, establish new relationships, and build a robust network of people that can benefit your business. With these secrets in hand, you’ll be well on your way to achieving the results you expect from business networking.
What is Business Networking?
Though business networking is not unique in itself, it does have its unique nuances. For starters, most people think of professional networking when they hear business networking—think Chamber of Commerce mixers or conventions for professionals in your industry. However, most business professionals agree that true business networking isn’t limited just to fellow professionals in your industry. Your network can include anyone who may have value to your company, whether it be personal contacts or vendors you use on a regular basis. There are three basic rules to follow while networking:
- Don’t sell your product or service at a business event.
- Don’t immediately ask for money from someone you meet.
- Only bring business cards with you if you intend to hand them out.
People will take more interest in meeting with someone if there is no agenda attached. Giving out too many cards can make people feel like yours wasn’t worth having anyway.
Where Should I Be Networking?
Building a strong network of contacts is critical for any small business, but knowing where you should be networking can be difficult. Before committing to any social networks or events, figure out what kind of relationship you want with your contacts. Determining goals for your network will help you decide which mediums are right for your needs. If your goal is to establish long-term relationships, LinkedIn may be best suited for you. If you’re looking to connect with potential customers or vendors, networking events might work better. Determine how often you want to interact with your contacts and think about how much time it takes to maintain those relationships. It could mean participating in multiple networks at once or limiting yourself to one or two specific areas.
How Do I Start Connecting?
Start by making a list of everyone you know or that you could possibly contact. To build up your network, make sure your social circle includes people from different industries. For example, if you are in retail sales, it’s worth talking to people in manufacturing or marketing. Try to connect with people who are at different career levels than you are; don’t be afraid to reach out to higher-ups at companies—many of them will be happy for an opportunity to talk about their industry. As you meet new people, think of ways to stay in touch with them after you’ve exchanged contact information. A great way to do so is through LinkedIn, an online networking site designed specifically for professionals. Connect on LinkedIn and send each other invitations when appropriate. Be careful not to overdo it, though: there’s a fine line between professional networking and spamming. Make friends before trying to get work out of them!
Dos and Don’ts When Networking
Do dress well and show up on time. Don’t be negative. Do help others as you network, and avoid self-promotion at all costs. Don’t spend all your time working a room; mix and mingle with those around you, but strategically target those who could be of value to your business. Do follow up promptly after a networking event – within 24 hours is best – with a thank-you note or call. Don’t feel like you have to attend every event that comes your way; pick and choose events wisely. Do ask about people’s interests outside of work; it’s how we relate to one another as human beings, not just colleagues. Don’t try to close a deal during a networking event; leave that for actual appointments. Do follow through on promises and commitments made during an event – don’t let someone down by not returning their call or e-mail quickly.
How Long Does It Take To Get Results From Business Networking?
First things first, you’ll be delighted if you stop thinking about business networking as a quick way to make money or find clients. It’s not! If you are counting on getting clients at every single event, you are doomed for failure because it just doesn’t work that way. Focus on establishing new relationships and nurturing them over time, not immediately getting something out of them. Why do business people network?: For many professionals in all industries, networking is their most successful method of marketing their businesses. Networking allows one-on-one communication with targeted prospects—something that traditional advertising often misses. The best part about networking is that it almost always provides positive ROI for your time and energy investment while simultaneously strengthening your professional reputation. What kinds of results can I expect from business networking? There really isn’t a standard formula for success when it comes to any type of marketing tactic or strategy; how much success depends on what you want to achieve.
It’s not about who you know; it’s who knows you. A business is only as good as its clientele, and clients are often looking for someone they can trust. Building relationships with your peers in your industry allows them to recommend you with confidence when a new client comes their way. Take time at events to chat with others in your field of work, participate in industry-related conferences, or send holiday cards and other personal greetings throughout the year. These minor interactions will go a long way toward making you memorable among your colleagues. And remember, if networking isn’t organic or enjoyable to you, consider hiring a professional who specializes in small-business management and networking strategies.