We’ve All Been There
Asking ourselves if networking in a conference is necessary; debating whether or not to go to the happy hour or stay in and cook for the family; questioning just how important is networking.
We understand the reluctance to spend your time on elusive happenings that perhaps won’t offer immediate rewards or instant gratification, yet we are here to encourage you to network anyway. This is why: Networking is one of the most important things you can do to secure a future for your business. Making connections and building relationships not only expands your immediate network but doubles your connections.
The power of compounding is immeasurable — meaning that when you make a connection you connect with that person’s network as well. Not to mention, there’s the added bonus of potential referrals and leads. Plus, networking also opens doors for great opportunities such as hearing advice from colleagues and learning about market trends as well as strategies for success.
Whether your company is B2B or B2C, it’s important to simply get out there and make yourself a well-known business owner, because chances are that either no one else is doing it or everyone else is doing it. Either way, both are great reasons to get started.
To put theory to practice, there are plenty ways to network, but below are some key networking strategies that can help you make the best use of your allotted ‘networking’ time without feeling like you’ve wasted an hour of your evening.
It’s Not As Time-Consuming As You Think
Networking doesn’t have to involve getting dressed up and going somewhere far. If you’re not feeling up to it, skip the glitz and glam and go local. Networking can extend just beyond the roots of your office to the surrounding businesses. For example, you can network with the folks at the office next door, with the local owner from the restaurant you frequent for lunch or with the Starbucks barista. Although not necessarily in your field, these connections are never obsolete, because you never know when John from Starbucks will need your services or will meet someone who does. Just be sure to be really intentional about networking in your area.
Pick A Time, Any Time
If you’re taking networking to the streets, meaning corporate events, conferences, happy hours or other happenings, write down on a piece of paper how many hours a month you’d like to dedicate to networking. These hours are not set in stone, but they can give you a rough estimate of how much time you’d like to spend on building new relationships and nurturing existing ones.
Alternatively, you can pick how many networking events you’d like to visit a month. For example, you can set a goal of two to three networking events per month. These are also flexible but will offer you a ballpark idea of when you need to amp up your mingling or when you need to tone it down and spend the night in. Although starting a business can feel like you’re always on the run, the key is to work in a smart manner.
Lastly, don’t forget to set aside a budget for networking events and business network groups. Although you can network free-of-charge anytime, joining a group of like-minded business professionals can be beneficial. Many business networks have a good number of active members and hold events throughout the year. This article from The Networking Gurus details how to easily find networking events in your area.
Get In The Zone
Before you head off to promote yourself and your business, be sure to take a couple minutes to prepare yourself. This means getting your elevator pitch ready and being in a positive frame of mind – it may sound silly but it’s been proven beneficial time and time again. If you’re unsure of how to formulate an elevator pitch, refer to the second point in “How to Begin Marketing Your Small Business” Don’t forget to stock up on business cards, which are an effective way to leave a lasting impression.
And while you’re there… set a goal for how many people you want to make deep, meaningful connections with. Sometimes the number of people you meet is unpredictable depending on the nature of the event, but often times you can limit yourself to a certain number of contacts to make the follow-up process manageable.
Ready to get out there? Remember, attending networking events is all about mutual benefits. What can you offer to others? How can you help? In turn, when the time comes when you may need help or advice, you’ll have a strong network to turn to. And the best part? You know you built it yourself.