Last month’s article Why Networking Is Your Most Powerful Business Tool generated quite a bit of discussion on social media (thank you to those who shared their thoughts.)
This month we look at my Top 10 tips to network your business to the next level so you can make the most of your networking experience.
1. Find the most appropriate networking meetings for your business
It might sound obvious but there is no shortage of meetings to attend (check out Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and Meetup as a start) but you’ll get the most out of networking if you’re selective about the meetings you go to. A bit like dating, you may have to try a few meetings before you find the best ones for you.
Before you go make sure the event matches your business profile by looking at their website, talk to network members and decide if it’s aimed at your kind of business.
2. Make the right connections
Your goal should be two-fold here. You want to help others, and also find people who can directly grow your business or introduce people to you. Remember, the person you’re speaking to might not be relevant for what you do, but they might know someone who is!
3. Make an impression
Be clear about what you’re offering and what you’re looking for, from business partners and customers. Hone your “elevator” pitch so you can give a brief summary – 30 seconds max – of what you do and how you help others.
4. Be a good listener
Ask others how you can help and what sort of contacts they’re looking for, and then LISTEN. Focus on who you know, who you could connect people to, or how you can help them. This should take precedence over pitching your own business.
By being a good listener you’ll get great feedback from your market and find out what’s happening in your industry and what the trends are. You’ll also get some unexpectedly great ideas, often from someone in an unrelated business who you happen to be chatting to.
5. Set clear goals for your networking
Are you working hard to find new customers, establish new business partnerships or find a Joint Venture partner? Perhaps your goal is to grow your business connections by 100 meaningful connections by the end of the year. Or to find some business partners for a new venture.
6. Be authentic and have a genuine desire to help others
This is critical. It’s not about you; it’s what you can do for others. Build trusting and lasting relationships and your business will really take off.
7. Always take business cards
Another obvious sounding tip but only about 50% of the people I meet at networking meetings have a card. To be memorable and contactable you must have a card with your contact details on and, ideally, a snappy one-liner about what you do and how you help people. Make this as benefit-focused as you can.
Many places offer cheap business cards, such as Vistaprint. An added bonus is that you’ll be able to enter the prize draw and might even win a prize!
8. Talk to as many people as possible
Ask others what they’re struggling with and how you can help. In turn, you’ll find answers to challenges you’ve been struggling with. Your goal is not to try to build deep and meaningful relationships at the first meeting, but to establish some common ground and potential synergy.
It sounds trite but this is one of the most powerful networking secrets. 90% of people you meet will never follow-up. So be one of the 10% who does what they say, and get in touch after the meeting. That alone will make you stand out.
10. Don’t collect cards just to build a mailing list
If that sounds self-defeating, think about the quality of your relationships and not the quantity. 100 actively engaged customers are far more valuable than 1,000 unresponsive people on a list who never open your emails or buy from you.
Those are my top tips for boosting your business through networking. Do you have others?