Before getting into the strategies for networking, we are sure you are asking yourself if networking is going to help your business. Running a business means that you probably have a busy schedule and sometimes sacrifice weekends with your family in order to get things done. So why go through the hassle of spending your time on elusive happenings that perhaps won’t offer immediate rewards or instant gratification?
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 are also reaching into that person’s network. This means that you open the doors for potential referrals and leads. Networking is also a learning opportunity. There are many entrepreneurs eager to give you advice, and you might learn a thing or two about market trends and strategies for success.
Whether your company is B2B or B2C, it’s important to simply get out there and make yourself a reputable business owner, because the chances are that either no one else is doing it or everyone else is. Both great reasons to get started.
To put theory to practice, there are plenty ways to network, but below are some 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 that you could have spent alongside your partner watching a good movie after a stressful workday.
Reasons and Strategies for Networking
Networking is not as time-consuming as you think
Networking doesn’t have to involve dressing up and going somewhere, although that is one of the more effective ways to do so. 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 restaurateur 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 José from Starbucks will need your services or will meet someone who does. Just be sure to be really intentional about networking in your area.
You can pick a time, anytime, for networking
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, and nurturing existing, relationships with others. 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 smarter, not harder.
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, or on an annual basis. This article from The Networking Gurus details how to easily find networking events in your area.
Before networking, get in the zone
Before you head off to promote yourself and your business, be sure to take a couple minutes to yourself to get prepared. This means, getting your elevator pitch ready and being in a positive frame of mind. 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 deeply 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 doable.
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. Don’t forget to get in touch with your new contacts after the networking event. If you want tips on how to write a proper follow-up email, read here. But your new alliances are just one of the benefits of effective networking. The best part? You know you built it yourself.
If you want lo learn more, read our detailed list on what to do before and after a networking event.