In the world of online networking and technology we currently live and work in there is a real possibility that personal networking will get lost …maintaining face to face networking is absolutely essential for many reasons….
- To increase business and/or get a job – referrals and word of mouth are the top marketing routes and successful businesses are built on these
- To market ourselves – self promotion is key to business success, people do business with people!
- To learn – continuous professional development can be neglected when as a small business we are chasing the next sale, networking has this benefit
- For social reasons – being self employed can be a lonely place so face to face networking is a vital support and you can make great friends along the way!
Consider the below 6 tips to increase the effectiveness of your networking making it a worthwhile activity for you and your business…:
1. Plan networking well
Do your research, know the event attendees and be mindful of locating the “critical few” you want to talk to. Don’t forget your business cards- they have not gone out with the horse & cart!
2. Learn the art of chit chat!
Conversation is a ladder, and small talk is the first rung of that ladder. Smile, use approachable body language, ask questions. Look for an “anchor” – something you have in common – have you a mutual acquaintance, did you go to the same school, what about similar interests etc…
3. Consider your elevator pitch!
Networking is not about the hard sell – it’s about building relationships, creating an interest and being remembered because of this. But be ready for the “what do you do?” question. Ensure your pitch has the MABE factors i.e.
- Memorable – make it stick so that they remember YOU when they are asked “did you meet anyone interesting at that networking event last week?”
- Authentic – Are you are comfortable in your own skin and passionate about what you do, does this come across when you answer the “what do you do?” question?
- Believable – Are you are credible or just winging it? Can you back up your pitch?
- Energetic – Do you bring energy to the communication of your pitch
4. Consolidate the contacts
Ask for their business card, give them yours, follow up promptly after the event, connect on LinkedIn.
5. Networking is a two way process
You are a connector and introducer, People will always remember who pointed them in the right direction, who put them in touch with someone useful, sent them that article/tender call and they will happily do the same for you
6. Maintain your network
Don’t wait until business is on the slide to take out your little black book & network! Pick up the phone, arrange to meet for a catch up, make it a habit and part of your businesses marketing strategy!
BONUS TIP…..Remember your network is like a tree: without nourishment, it will die…find a way to stay in touch, give it the attention it needs to stay alive – Networking isn’t just for Christmas!