Business Networking is probably the most effective and least expensive marketing method you can use to build your business or practice, especially if you are looking to do business in your local area.
Lots of business owners and practitioners I meet say that they don’t like to network, they don’t have the time to network, or they haven’t found it to be beneficial to their business in the past.
You can learn to like networking, especially if you learn to do it properly and start getting results from your networking and if you’re currently not getting any results from your business networking then you are probably getting it wrong somewhere, going to the wrong network or you may just have unrealistic expectations about the timing of results.
I do a lot of business networking both online and off.
As a natural people person who likes to talk, networking is relatively easy for me. But even if you’re a bit on the shy side or have reservations about the potential for success with business networking, you can gain value from your networking, if you follow certain guidelines.
I have compiled some business networking tips that can ensure your networking success and ask that if you want to network with search for Mike Armstrong or Michael Armstrong from MA Consultancy / WelshBiz / Mike Armstrong News on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and I would be happy to connect.
Before looking at my Business Networking Tips the first tip for any Sales & Marketing activity is to work on a strategy or plan for that activity. So before you go Networking have a strategy in place.
- Know who you are looking to meet and what you are looking for.
- Be clear on what your business needs and what it can offer.
- Have a plan for following up, contacting and meeting with the people that you meet.
- How are you looking to raise your company profile
- What new contacts are you looking for and new skills are you looking to learn
- Who would make great lead referral partners
- Who would you like to partner or collaborate with and why?
Business Networking Tips – 1
Choose the right business network!
If you Networking in the wrong network, with the wrong people for you and your business then it can be hard to get any traction. Specialist Networking Organisations, Chambers of Commerce, men’s and women’s organisations, niche networking groups, special interest groups, placed you can volunteer at and membership clubs, buying groups & associations are all potential choices.You can also find a local MeetUp.com group in your area that might appeal to you or another specific event on Eventbrite. Business Expo’s & Conferences are also a great place to do a lot of Business Networking all in one day or over a few days.
“You might need to kiss a few frogs before you find the Prince.”
Business Networking Tips – 2
Choose the right venues!
Not every group of people will be right for you and neither will all locations. Choose groups where people congregate who share your interests and/or are potential clients. Find a location that your are comfortable in and that suits your needs. Also find somewhere close to you or your place of work so you can attend regularly and not miss events.
Business Networking Tips – 3
Choose the Right Time to Network!
Networking like a lot of things is about how much effort, consistency and momentum you can put in.
“The more you put in the more you can get out!“
So choose a regular business networking event that fits comfortably in to your working week so that you can consistently attend.
Business Networking Tips – 4
Develop relationships, friendships etc.!
Business Networking is not about giving it the hard sell. It more about building relationships and friendships with like minded people, that can lead to sales, referrals or even partnerships & collaborations further down the line. The idea is to get to know people, their products & services and their values and to allow them to get to know you, your business, your products & services and your values.
Often, people approach business networking a Sales strategy, with the hope of making a sale or getting a client straight away.
That’s not how it works.
People do business with those they know, like and trust and share a similar value system. It can take time to build up that knowledge and trust.
So approach a business networking event without any expectation of getting new business.
“Go networking with the idea of meeting new people, making friendships with likeminded people, learning some things and having some fun and see what happens from there!“
Business Networking Tips – 5
Dress appropriately and professionally for the venue, event and your business!
The way you appear can establish yourself as a successful person or not as the case may be. If you dress the part then you’ll also feel the part and this will come across to those who you are Networking with. This does not mean that you need to wear expensive clothes, but do wear something a bit on the dressy side and leave the comfortable baggy pants at home.
“If necessary, get advice from an image consultant or a fashion savvy friend.“
Business Networking Tips – 6
Always be prepared with lots of Professional Looking Business Cards!
Make sure you bring plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Brochures or printed postcards can also be effective.
Business Networking Tips – 7
Always be prepared with a short, sharpe & concise description of what you do!
You should have a 10 or 15 seconds Elevator description of what you do for meeting people briefly at Networking events as well as a 1 minute and 5 minute more detailed and comprehensive version for occasions when you are invited to present your business is an allotted time slot. Remember to include your professional expertise and USP’s (unique selling points), etc.
“When working on this always the remember – what’s in it for me, the thing the other people will be thinking about as you tell them, and make this as good as you can for them and you’ll have their interest.”
Business Networking Tips – 8
Use Ice Breakers & Build rapport before going onto Business!
People need to relax and feel comfortable before they open up.
“Ask people about Themselves, Their Family, Holidays, Favourite Sports, Hobbies, Interests & Teams etc. Before you discuss business in order to relax people and get them to open up more.”
*You can also relax people and build trust by smiling and maintaining eye contact.
Business Networking Tips – 9
Ask good questions and listen to the answers!
You don’t have to talk a lot about what you do in order to find potential customers. Rather, ask people you meet questions about them and their business, then listen carefully to their answers. Find points of commonality that you can bring into the conversation.
“Look for problems that you can solve or solutions that you can provide, or a common business objective or shared cakes that could allow a partnership or collaboration.
Business Networking Tips – 10
Sit with, stand with or engage with people that you don’t know!
Many events have walk-around networking followed by a sit-down meeting of some sort. During the walk-around, do talk to people you have met before to enhance your relationship, but sit with people you don’t know in order to widen your network and meet potential customers, lead referral partners or collaborators.
“You can speak to those that you already know, after the networking event or in an arranged follow up meeting at another time.
Business Networking Tips – 11
Talk to people who are standing alone!
People attend networking events to meet others. If someone is standing alone, that’s the perfect opportunity to make a new contact. You might want to start the conversation by saying, “May I join you” or “I’ve not met you before, what’s your name”.
“People often feel awkward at Networking Events and as networking is about building relationships and trust, if you can help them out of an awkward situation then you are well on your way with that person.”
Business Networking Tips – 12
Move on – politely!
Don’t spend all of your time talking to one person. Gather the information you need, exchange business cards, if appropriate, and move on.
I often say, “I’d like to meet some more new people now. It’s been a great speaking to you.” And then move off!
Business Networking Tips – 13
Remember that givers get!
Focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you.
Business Networking Tips – 14
Don’t just walk around collecting business cards.
Take time to meet people, engage with them and see if you can help each other rather than just collecting cards for a database or mass email campaign etc.
Business Networking Tips – 15
In a room full of others what makes you & your business stand out from the crowd?
You can bring props, not just marketing materials and business cards, something that visually shows off your expertise or helps others to understand what it is that you do.
Business Networking Tips – 16
Quote Testimonials & Case Studies!
Quoting Testimonials from your satisfied customers & demonstrating
how your product or service has helped others can help you to win new clients. Especially if these are for people already in the group.
Business Networking Tips – 17
Make referrals or Introductions!
Where possible, always provide the person you are referring to with a way of getting in touch directly with your contact, maybe cc them into an email, check back on progress and see if it was of value.
If you were introduced or recommended by someone, keep the person who made the introduction up to date with the progress/outcome.
If it was successful, a positive action would be to thank them publicly at the next meeting, as this not only demonstrates to others that the network is working, it can help to build both your and the referrer’s credibility within the group.
If an introduction wasn’t relevant, provide feedback as to the reasons why and how they can identify more positive referrals in the future for you.
Business Networking Tips – 18
Don’t forget to Follow up with the people that you have met and can work further with!
If you make a good connection with someone, after the event, send a note saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If appropriate, send an article or some kind of information that they might find helpful.
“Don’t just add them to your mail list and try selling to them straight from the off.”
It’s actually not what happens at the networking event that is so important to your networking success. Your success is more to do with what you do after that initial introduction, once you have followed up.
Be pro-active in follow ups, use social media to connect with people you have met and ensure that you follow up anything that you have said you were going to do in a timely fashion.
Have separate 121’s with key individuals outside of the networking sessions, this will also help to avoid getting into any lengthy conversations during the event that may prevent you from meeting other people.
Business Networking Tips – 19
Remember that Business Networking is a process and not just a one-off event!
Take the time to develop relationships with people who interest you. Be proactive and invite someone to a one-to-one meeting so you can get to know them.
Remember that most business owners and practitioners are looking for connections. Be bold and step forward into their world.
Business Networking Tips – 20
Measure & Keep Going if it’s working for you (but give it time and consistency)!
- Are you achieving your objectives?
- How much business is generated through this activity either directly or by introductions/referrals?
- Compare your findings against the cost of investments, be sure to factor in your own cost per hour.
If the Networking is working for you longer term:
Networking can be a slow burner. It can take a while to build up trust within a group. Attend regularly, help others and have an effective follow up.
“Networking is about building up your network and relationships. You might not immediately get business from an event but one person you speak to might open a number of doors and that can happen straight away or further down the line, but not at all if you stop attending!
Business Networking Tips – Summary
Business Networking is an effective business tool for all smaller businesses, providing a platform to meet like-minded individuals and build connections for growth and development, both professionally and individually. There are a variety of networking groups and events out there to choose from at various price points and all offering different opportunities. Below are some ‘Top Tips’ to ensure that you get the best out of your investment.
If you are new to networking try to visit as many different business networking events as possible, talk to the regulars and find out if the group will fit in with your strategy before making a regular commitment.
If you would like to network with, meet, discuss a partnership or a collaboration with me please call: 07960 872549.
If you are interested in getting involved in any of the below events or opportunities please give me a call on 07960872549.
Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me