Whilst business networking may seem very alien to some and a bit too ‘salesy’, if you want to receive a steady stream of enquiries for your business, then networking is definitely worth incorporating into your marketing strategy. There’s nothing quite like face-to-face business networking to help you cement solid relationships and build trust. Yes, it’s about making effort and yes, there needs to be some give and take, but it’s possible that some of your biggest and most loyal clients could come from networking, so it’s worth putting the time in.
To get the most out of networking, it’s useful to have a few pointers so here are my tips for a successful networking experience;
- Always have business cards on you but don’t distribute them at will. It’s not great business etiquette to pass your cards around to all and sundry so be selective about who you give them to and only do it if the timing feels right,
- Avoid business jargon when you engage in conversation. Others will soon switch-off if you do this and that’s clearly counter-productive.
- Be mindful of your body language. Especially looking over the shoulder of the person you are speaking to in order to see who else is in the room, There’s nothing ruder than this in a networking event. It’s happened to all of us and it doesn’t put you in a great frame of mind.
- Joining groups already involved in conversation isn’t an easy thing to do but inevitably at network meetings it’s something you need to get over. Just bite the bullet and simply ask ‘do you mind if I join you?’. It’s unlikely they will say no, and it stops you from being isolated.
- Have your elevator pitch ready. Yes, I know that sounds a bit of an ‘Americanism’ but it can be really useful to have a short, concise version of what you do so that you can avoid waffling and get your point across quickly. You don’t get much time at network meetings so the more succinct you can be, the better.
- Be a good listener and listen out for things where you know that your network and extended contacts can help. Being able to introduce others and add value is what networking is all about and will stand you in good stead.
- Always follow-up. If you’ve made a good connection, then it makes sense to connect on business networks such as LinkedIn and meet again in a one-to-one meeting so that you can go into more detail. This is the most important element of any post-networking activity so make sure it happens.
These tips are really simple but it’s amazing how many people don’t follow them or get the most out of the experience. Business networking is about meeting people to generate mutually beneficial relationships. It’s no more complex than that. There are hundreds of networking groups around the UK such as BNI and 4N so do your homework, see what you think is appropriate for your business, and make the effort. It may be one of the best marketing strategies that you embark upon.