Connections make the world go round, so it's no surprise that developing supportive relationships with key players and influencers in your industry can lead to new opportunities. But who are these people and how do select and build relationships with the ones who will become champions for your business?
To help you on this journey we have outlined below some of the key points to help you grow your business through networking.
1. Build Your Fanclub
Your network should include a good balance of mentors to educate you and like minded business owners to support you. By having a fanclub, a group of people who know, trust and support you, your business life will be infinitely easier. Whether contacting new clients, developing your business skills or brainstorming new products and services, you can call on your network to help you.
2. Be Inspired
Seek out keynote speakers and presenters who motivate and educate. Many business networking events have experts in fields that will be of interest to both you and your target market. In addition to imparting important information, many of these speakers can be the spark that jolts you into action.
3. Perfect Your Pitch
If there's an opportunity to stand in front of an audience and share your own expertise and knowledge, grab it! Every time you speak about your business you are perfecting your pitch and spreading your message. Networking is the perfect time to practice your 30 second elevator speech about the services you provide and your unique selling points, plus you never know who might be in the audience.
4. Importance of Being Memorable
Make sure that you put your face and your message in front of the same people on an ongoing basis, as long as they're the RIGHT people: your target market. Like in any traditional marketing campaign, repeat viewing increases awareness. By presenting you and your brand consistently to the right people you will establish that awareness with the vocal minority who will then become your secondary spokespeople.
5. Connect with the Right People not All People
Although you want to get your message out there, this does not mean that you need to attend every event in town. Becoming a 'regular' at a few key events will be more effective than being the new kid in town at every event.
Do your research. Ask for recommendations. Find the events which attract the types of people you want to connect with and if you attend an event which was not helpful, drop it and find another. When starting out time is money, so make sure you get the best return on your investment.
6. Follow Up and Develop Your Relationships
Remember meeting people at a networking event is merely the first step. It is very rare that you will walk away with a series of contracts for your product or service. The key to attending these events is what your do after it. Follow up with the connections you have made. Use the information you learnt from them and provide links and information to help them. Remember this is about making relationships.
7. Networking is not Always About Sales
Know how to balance your conversation. Direct selling is the most common mistake people make when networking. By pulling out brochures and speaking about prices after 2 minutes of conversation you are going to lose their interest. Networking is process of knowing, liking and referring. You may never sell directly to your network but they will soon become your most valuable referral partners.
8. Know the Type of Networking You Want to Do
Attend the right event for the type of networking you want to do. If you are looking for new clients, do not attend your own industry's events, attend a more general small business event or an event focussed on your particular target market. If you are looking for business partners, or to be able to trade ideas with similar business owners, attend an event specifically tartetted for your industry.
9. Keep on Top of Trends in Your Industry
10. Increase Your Knowledge of Your Target Market
By speaking directly to you target market you will find it easier to understand the challenges that they face and how you can resolve these with your products or services. Take advantage of each conversation which you have and find out what presses their buttons in a positive, and negative, way.
11. Find Solutions to Your Problems
Most people think of networking events as a place to find new clients and customers. However networking can be the ideal place to find business support, such as accountants, web designers, and recruitment specialists.
12. Recruit Talent
By striking up conversation at a networking event you may find your next employee. The informal atmosphere created at these events enables you to have a conversation with a potential employee and find out how they can help your business progress to the next stage.
Where to Start?
With a different entrepreneur or small business networking event happening every day around BC it can sometimes feel overwhelming to know where to start. We have listed below a few places below to help you find the right events for you: