The word “networking” is used frequently in enterprising circles, but not everyone knows exactly what it is or why it’s important. Networking is an essential part of building a business. It can connect you with people from other fields, with more experience or bringing new ideas to the team. But before you go into your next event, we want you share with you some valuable tips on how to make the most of your networking endeavours.
“Impersonate” Your Business
When you attend a networking event you must keep in mind that you’re representing your business. You are the face that people will associate with your brand. That means that, although being yourself is important, at that moment you are your business. How do you want people to remember your company? What will people associate with your brand after meeting you? This is your chance to make a lasting impression, so make sure you’ve thought carefully how you want to be seen. You and your company are one and the same at these events so it’s essential that your brand’s name is remembered in the best possible way. If you manage to make a lasting impression on others by being unique and portraying a clear identity of what your brand is, people will be less likely to forget you or your brand and will be more eager to meet you and become a part of your project.
Set Clear Goals for Yourself
Before barging into a networking event, make sure you have a carefully planned out strategy. Most of these events take place after work hours so it does take a conscious effort to take time out your busy schedule and meet new people. It’s not just a matter of attending, smiling and taking a few business cards. Set goals for yourself and make sure that every event you sign up for takes you one step closer to achieving that goal. By knowing why you’re there, you will be more thorough when it comes to making connections and meeting all those people will have a purpose.
Remember that your net worth is only as good as your network. This means that without networking, your business will be missing out on a lot of opportunities to branch out, team up with others and benefit from the experience and ideas of others. At least 50% of the people there are in the same boat as you, developing a new project for which they have high hopes. Networking is an excellent space for everyone to grow together.
Online Networking Isn't the Only Kind of Networking
When we think of networking we tend to think of social media and an online presence. This is especially true for younger entrepreneurs from the Millennial generation. Although 44% of small and medium enterprise owners think that traditional networking events are important to their business’ growth, they still value digital methods of connection higher, such as LinkedIn. Although it is still relevant to an entrepreneur today, we can’t forget the impact of a real, face-to-face connection. When people get to meet in person it’s much easier to develop a working relationship that will last. You can meet people in a more relaxed environment and create connections that would otherwise be impossible online. Body language is a vital part of human communication. A one-on-one meeting can help you read the people around you and identify who you’d feel comfortable working with. One of the great things about networking is that it’s free (generally) so there’s no excuse for not attending.
Find Relevant Communities
The advantage of living in the digital age is that you can do networking from the comfort of your own home. It also means that you have almost unlimited access to all sorts of communities with varied interests and goals. This can make choosing an event or a network to integrate with a bit overwhelming. The trick is to find networks that are relevant to your business interests and stick to those. Going to every single networking event you can find will be exhausting and may yield poor results because they will not directly benefit your business in any way. Choose the ones that best suite your needs and prepare for those thoroughly.
Don’t forget to be local. An online presence will certainly broaden your business’ reach and may mean more customers in the long term, but this doesn’t mean you can forget about your local community. Word of mouth, trust and lasting relationships with your regular customers is a priceless asset for your business. Every entrepreneur needs the support of a strong community to rely on for short term growth.
Choose Your Allies Strategically
The whole point of a Networking event is to connect with people who can potentially become allies for your business. You go, chat, find common ground and exchange numbers. But there’s always someone who stands out, be it for their charisma, their experience or their eagerness to get involved with your project. Those are the people you want to build bridges of communication with. They will probably become valuable assets for your business, even if they don’t become directly engaged in it. A successful networking experience will leave you with new, talented sources of ideas that will benefit your brand.
Try to connect with people that have different interests and strong points. Identify what your business needs and go straight for that group. If you have some weaknesses that you want to reinforce, meet the people that are good at what you’re not. If you know your business is strong and has potential for growth in a specific area, make sure you connect with people who will bring added value to that area.
Don’t forget that everyone there is doing the exact same thing, so you may be called upon to offer ideas and value to someone else’s project. That’s what it’s all about, so don’t be afraid to get involved in some teamwork where everyone wins.
Follow Up With Your Contacts
Your networking experience doesn’t end when you walk out the door and go home for the night. All those valuable connections you made and incredible people you met will expect some sort of contact from you soon. If you agreed to call or email someone, do it and soon. If you got someone’s card or address, don’t hesitate to send them a short note thanking them for their time and expressing some hopes of keeping in contact. If you had a meaningful conversation that seemed to be leading to specific ideas or actions, don’t dawdle - call that person the next day and set up a meeting. The key is to not let the leads go cold because you will lose all the previous day’s work. The busy day to day activities of entrepreneurs mean that as people get on with their own projects, they will be prone to forget you or the incredible conversation you had over a Martini. So it’s up to you to show some interest and confirm the desire to keep working with them in the near future.