Why Should You Network?
Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, your uniqueness, what you stand for. Christine Lynch
As a new business or start-up one of the first pieces of marketing you should be doing is making yourself and your business known to others. For established businesses, sometimes it needs a fresh approach. If you aren’t getting any results from your current networking events take a read through my tips below and see if there is anything you might change to see different results.
Where and How Should You Network?
Tip #1: If you are short on confidence or new to business begin with baby steps. All this means is start with small beginnings. The perfect place to begin is the online world. Social media can do wonders for expanding your networking range and contacts.
Tip 2#: Take it slowly. Just as you wouldn’t approach 300 people in a day don’t do this on LinkedIn when making connection requests.
Let’s look at the different places you can network and go through tips on how to use each one.
Social Media – LinkedIn and Twitter.
Take note of the advice above regarding making a sensible number of connection requests per day. Also, don’t hard sell. Make connections, which simply put is take an interest in others, and share any advice or contacts you know. Let people get to see the person behind the brand.
Personalised Video Messages.
Whilst this may seem unusual, it’s not that different from traditional advertising. Except you create a short 60-second video for one person or a group of people. It could be about your latest product or an upcoming promotion.
It’s natural that you see other businesses as competition, but it is also healthy to see other businesses as partners or support networks. This is where cross-promotion or teaming up with another business can be helpful. For example, a personal tutor could team up with play centres or local youth centres depending on the age group they tutor. Another example, a website builder could partner up with a social media company to pass each other referrals in their line of work as clients usually require both businesses.
Virtual Business Cards
This concept may seem a little out there, but in this digital-age a virtual business card really isn’t that different from talking over social media. Always keep print business cards on you and in your car but consider also swapping business cards by mobile technology. There are different software and apps you can try but the premise is simple; they receive your business card by text. The advantage to this is they will have your number and other contact details in their telephone and you will also have theirs. In case you are wondering when you might swap virtual business cards: anytime. At a network, a business event, out and about in your everyday life. Very useful if you happen to be at the local swimming pool and get chatting to someone who is interested in referring you after finding out what you do, but you didn’t bring business cards with you.
Sports, Hobbies, Events, Interests, Anywhere
It may seem a bit of a stretch to gain new contacts at your local football stadium. It starts with someone chatting to you and then asking what you do. Before you know it, they are telling you about their friend who is looking for a one-to-one tutor for their child. Just by revealing a little about yourself you will discover there are people looking for your services. Don’t see it as the hard-sell as long as they open the conversation by asking what you do. Approach this gently by offering to exchange your virtual business card or connect on LinkedIn.
Tip #3: Everyday is a networking day. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you do as long as you don’t come over as hard-selling. Follow the other person’s lead. Conversations should always be natural and not forced. Take an interest in what other people do and their line of work.
Tip #4: Remember the power of the ‘Nanna effect’. I was once talking to a professional colleague of mine. He told me the story of how his nanna had a vague idea he worked in film. One day he got talking to her properly about what he did (making documentaries) and a few months later when he attended an hospital appointment with his nanna the oncologist offered him a one-to-one interview. From conversations with his nanna the oncologist knew her grandson was making a cancer documentary. This goes to show that telling your family what you do specifically rather than vaguely can be a source of referrals as your nanna (and other family) will always proudly talk about you and your work.
Traditional networking events
Once you have gotten into social networking over LinkedIn and Twitter and developed your confidence then take a leap of faith and sign up for one network meeting. By committing to go with a professional or social colleague it will hold you accountable and make you more likely to attend. It may seem daunting but going with someone you know will help with those first introductions. Here are a few of my top tips that I have learned over the years. Have a read and see what might help you:
- Take your business cards (and full mobile battery if you plan to exchange virtual business cards or connecting via LinkedIn).
- Do your research on the network: ask around for information on the size, type of professionals attending (B2B vs B2C), cost, and competitors.
- Visit different networks in your region.
- Make a note of important details: When you have left a network remember to write details on business cards and make a note in your diary 1-2 days from then to contact them to arrange a one-to-one meeting.
- Tone down the self-promotion. Everyone is there to talk about their business and that means giving other people a chance to tell you about themselves. You may be able to refer them to someone in your contact circle who requires their services.
- Be selective about networks. Once you become more familiar with the environments of the networks you attend you will be able to pick those that suit your business best. For example, a life coach would want to attend a B2C network to gain new clients.
See more from the blogs and how to build a better business strategy by absorbing our free and valuable articles. They are full of how to, tips and tricks that we have used and that you should implement in to your business too.
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