Surely any small business owner who spends enough time twittering, blogging, Facebooking, and texting while being LinkedIn should have no trouble generating new business?
Not so. In fact one effect of the increasing popularity of virtual networking is that there is arguably a premium value on meeting someone in person.
Add in the fact that there are fewer easily found business opportunities in the current economic climate and the result is that now more and more of us are getting out there and networking.
We’ve all got our eyes and ears out for possible job offers or potential new business relationships, but the following tips can help you stand out from the crowd.
Select the right group
Does the group attract your potential customer? Does it put you in contact with your strategic partners? Does it help you stay current in your field? Could you learn new skills that will help you find business?
Meetings that involve potential customers or strategic partners get you in touch with your target market. Meetings that teach you new skills or keep you up to date can get you in touch with mentors and peers.
Become an active member
Once you decide on a group to join, become an active member so others will get to know you. It may be a Chamber of Commerce, a trade association or a professional networking set-up such as a breakfast network. Experiment and see where you feel comfortable.
You might try to get a role within the group to put you at the centre of things and give you contact in a different way than if you just attend as a delegate. Meeting someone once is just the beginning. The key is to cultivate deeper relationships.
Attend every meeting
There’s a lot of truth to the saying: “Out of sight, out of mind.” The same principle applies to a networking group.
Prepare a power-packed 30-second introduction
Be clear and concise about who you are, what you provide, the benefit of your product or service and the type of clients you are looking for – all in 30 seconds or less!
Set goals for the event
Set some goals for the networking event. Who do you want to meet? How many contacts would you like to make? What do you want to learn?
Give to other people
If you go to networking events just to promote yourself, you’ve only got half the picture. Great networkers go to events not only to promote themselves, but to also contribute to the people they meet. See how you can bring business to the people you meet or help them solve a problem.
By helping out someone else, perhaps with an idea, a solution or an introduction, you’re demonstrating your value. This in turn will mean other people will remember you or want to get to know more about what you do.
And if you don’t come away with a new contact or a stack of business cards, then you might come up with a new idea or a different route to a client by reflecting on who you’ve met and the conversations you’ve had.
Ask people questions and get them talking about themselves and their business. Find out what they are struggling with or what they are celebrating.
Meeting people, being in a giving mode, and being passionate about who you are and what you have to offer is fun. Look forward to going to these meetings/events and have a blast networking.
We tend to do business with people we like, we trust who we know well. Now that you have the business cards of the people you’ve met, contact them and let them know what you’re doing and find out how they are doing. Keep them updated with any changes in your business so they can be a resource when appropriate.
When you meet people, you won’t establish a relationship immediately. It takes time and patience.
Networking is one of over 100 ways of generating business, but it is generally one of the most obvious and the one that business owners turn to first.
However, entrepreneurs need to be honest with themselves about how they’re going to find new clients in a tougher economic environment.
During the good times, they were often just a phone call or an email away. Now though, it will be a matter of trying as many avenues as possible that are appropriate for the business, and not being afraid to seek support if the situation demands it.
New business opportunities are out there at the moment, but networking – either virtually or in person – is just the first step on what will now be a longer path to finding them.