Networking is one of the most important marketing tools for yourself and your business. Networking is one of the best ways to gain new clients, customers or connections in your industry and the business community. Networking isnt just about turning up to events. You need to talk to people at networking events, make a great first impression and start to create a relationship with them. Networking can also be a great learning experience when you meet other women in your industry and learn from their experiences. You can learn about different types of businesses, new trends in the business community and share your experiences with others.
Attend events alone
The key to good networking is to go alone. Do not take someone with you for support as you will inevitably use the event as a catch up. If you invite a colleague to attend with you, split up during any networking period and catch up after the event.
Who should you network with?
Obviously from a business development perspective, it is a good idea to network with potential clients. For example, if your target market is small businesses, then participate in groups for small business owners, such as your local chamber of commerce. It is also a good idea to join your industry specific network, such as one run by the professional association you may belong to.
Dont wait for someone to approach you first
Instead of waiting for people to find you, take control of the situation and find them. For this reason, networking is an essential element to business development. Through networking, you instantly have access to a room full of people who, by simply chatting with them, can discover if they have a need for services like yours. The more people who are aware of your business means a greater number of people will contact you when the need arises.
Networking can also be the most cost-effective way of reaching hundreds of potential clients, which is particularly worthwhile for SMEs with tight marketing budgets. While the cost of attending a lunch or event can be expensive, you are essentially paying for personal advertising, which may be cheaper than hiring an advertising agency. Networking is time consuming, but when you connect with people on a personal level, it is very powerful.
Make many contacts
Networking isnt just about acquiring new business; it is about surrounding yourself with a support network for your life in general. You can never have too many contacts! Running a business can be an isolating and stressful experience, but when networking, you learn so much about different types of businesses, what is happening in the business community and have the opportunity to share your experiences.
Its not about selling. In fact, its not about talking. Its about listening. A savvy networker knows that networking and building relationships is about taking the time to find out about others, and from there, working out if there is any synergy. Good networkers also always follow up those they meet. Its not about getting as many business cards as possible, but connecting with people. Try setting a goal for each event to get two business cards with the invitation to contact them and arrange a coffee meeting to chat in more detail.