If you’re a new small or medium business, you’re going probably having trouble with professional networking. But what really is the definition of networking? It essentially means reaching out to new people in order to build your business network. This can occur within the industry, with other businesses or even with potential clients. Networking can be your most powerful source of new business, especially if it means building a referral network to increase revenue and solidify your business identity. According to a study conducted by Manta, more than half of small-business owners get the most business from referrals. Another survey documenting over 3,000 small business owners showed that the main priority for a starting new business was to network. Networking allows you to promote your business, especially if you don’t have the funds to start sponsored ads yet.
If you read our last blog, you were thinking it was a joke (pun intended). We wanted it to be light-hearted and providing ample you with ample opportunities to break the ice when new to a mixer or gathering. If you didn’t enjoy it, this blog might be better at providing concrete tips to network if you’re a small to medium-sized business. Networking can feel foreign, especially if your business is a goods business. Even if you’re starting a bakery, restaurant or app, networking is integral to building your brand and the trust behind it. The more people see you, hear you, and meet you, the more meaningful business relationships you build.
The advantages of networking don’t just stop at the connections you make, you’re boosting your profile, opening up yourself to potential opportunities, getting insight and advice from an expert and you’re building your credibility and brand. Our comprehensive guide will show you how to engage people with confidence, and provide a solid introduction to networking in general.
1) Have a Strategy
Before engaging in any type of networking or conversation you should know what it is you want from it. What is your ideal outcome? Do you want a partnership, to promote your business, to form a potential lead or to get advice? Knowing what you want ahead of time will help to shape your questions and the direction of the conversation.
2) Have an Elevator Pitch
Part two of your strategy is always having an elevator pitch in the back
of your mind. It should be short, no longer than 3-5 minutes and allowing ample
time and opportunities for the other person to chime in. It should be natural
and not too scripted. Having a pitched pre-made will allow you to act more
confidently when you are actively networking at an event. It is also useful to
have in case the random opportunity to network strikes. Your elevator pitch you include:
a. Who you are
b. What you do
c. The problem you solve
d. Who you serve
e. What makes you different
f. What you want to happen next
3) Have an online presence
What good is networking when the person you’ve just spent an hour talking to can’t find you online. Having business cards is a must have if you’re planning on going to networking events, but it isn’t uncommon for people to misplace business cards, or even just throw them away. If you’re at a networking event, chances are you’ll be meeting a lot of people. The person you thought you hit it off with will probably have met a ton of people too. By the time they get home and think about their conversations, they won’t be able to accurately remember your company name. There have been tons of times where I try and track down the company I was talking through by Googling the service they provide. If you don’t have a website or an online presence it becomes impossible to find you.
4) Be Active Online
Nowadays just having a website or Facebook profile for your business just doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to be active. Posting consistently and often in order for your website to even place on Google search. If the person you’re talking to doesn’t remember your name or your business accurately, they’re going to have a hard time finding you if you aren’t active online. Having an online is important for search, and credibility. The more your post online, the more searchable you become, and high up the ranks you are on Google for your service.
5) Join Social Networking Sites
I wrote about how small business owners use sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter business earlier this month. If you haven’t read those check them out. Not only do social media platforms allow you to connect with like-minded groups, similar businesses, and potential leads, they also serve as a platform to share ideas, and innovate. Facebook and LinkedIn are especially good for this because they have groups where people of similar niches or demographics can come together and chat. Groups are also helpful for information sharing, for example, events coming up in your local town or other opportunities that you may have missed because you don’t have time to constantly research them yourself. Take advantage of these groups if you’re already online,
6) Know your local community
Be a part of business networking groups like your local Chambers of Commerce. Type in “Networking events in (your city)”. Go to industry-specific mixers, small business mixers, galas, conferences you name it. Even if it isn’t networking specific that’s still ok. Exposure is exposure.
7) Be Unapologetic
You do not have to wait until events to network. After you have your elevator pitch down you can strike up conversation wherever you are. Whether that’s at the grocery store, in line to pick up your kid or at the restaurant. Find opportunities to mention your business, service, or how you can solve a problem. This was how Rahul and I met. We were at the bank when I stroke a conversation about watches, we ended up getting coffee and sharing business ideas, and now we’re business partners! Find out if the other person can help you in any way. Ask them for a coffee, or their e-mail to reach out.
8) Ask for introductions
This can pretty much fall under being unapologetic. It will never hurt to ask. You will only miss out if you don’t take advantage of an opportunity. Opportunities don’t present themselves either, you have to go after them. If you know that one of your connections knows someone you admire or someone you want to connect with, ask for that introduction. Likewise, if you do reach out to someone after a networking event and they don’t reply, do not be afraid to follow up sometime later. I’m not saying e-mail them one after another right away either. You are one of two people who know how the conversation went, and if you have good vibes about it, felt that it was memorable and engaging, chances are the other person felt the same way. It could be that the first e-mail got lost, overlooked or forgotten about. Wait a couple weeks or month, but always follow up.
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