So what is ‘networking’? According to Webster’s Dictionary ‘networking’ is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
Ok, so. There you have it. Now go out and ‘network’ to explode your business.
If it were that simple to explode your business through networking, why wouldn’t more small business owners be utilizing networking to it’s full potential?
It is generally because most people ‘suck’ at networking.
As far as low-cost or no-cost advertising goes, networking has to be one of the best ways of getting your business out there to the marketplace. There are many networking events for small business owners Australia wide. Depending on where you live will depend on the amount of events you can attend and if you are fortunate to live in a capital city, you will be spoilt for choice.
Networking events are specifically designed for business owners to met, introduce their product/service and either meet potential clients at the events or build a network of potential referred clients. Groups such as BNI or Council Chamber of Commerce are regular weekly or monthly meetings that require some discipline to attend and there are many one off networking events where you get to meet new people regularly.
There are some rules to networking successfully and although it can be intimidating the first few times you attend, most groups are very welcoming and if you adhere to the following tips, you will be networking like a pro in no time.
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Do this so you can introduce yourself to the person running the event. (They will be early too!) That way you wont be overwhelmed walking into a big crowd. It is also easier to have a meaningful conversation in a quieter space. If you do happen to arrive late when the pre-mingling is happening, look for the group of people who are in loose circle (they normally don’t know each other either) rather than a tight circle and just walk up and ask if you can join them. Don’t start talking, just listen and eventually you will be asked what you do.
Be interested, not interesting
Don’t walk into an event with the intention of selling. Walk in with the intention of making connections and asking what others do. Aim to have a meaningful conversation with two or three people per event. Ask what the person you meet does first, then they will of course ask what you do in return.
Spend the time to get your BBQ/elevator speech ready
This is you ‘pitch’ or your 30 seconds to clearly and interestingly explain what you do and what problem you solve. Such as “you know how many women struggle to lose their unwanted post baby weight? Well I have a 12 Step Transformational System that works on their mindset to not only lose their weight but also become confident, happy mums”.
Take plenty of business cards
Doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, even Vista Print can be great, however never offer someone your card. Ask for the person’s that you have met card and 9 times out of 10, they will ask for yours in return. If possible, write something quickly on the back of the card that you were talking about or something that will help you remember them.
Within 24 hours of any networking event, you will need to follow up and connect with your new contacts. Friend them on Facebook and LinkedIn and send them an email. If you had really good rapport, even give them a call and offer to buy them a coffee so you can extend the relationship and find out if you can work together. If it is too hard to meet in person, offer to have a virtual cap of coffee and have a Skype video call. This gives you the best chance of making a meaningful connection and possible business opportunity.
Remember, as a business owner, you never stop networking. My husband used to snicker at me when I would start a conversation with a waitress or hairdresser when I was out of my ‘business hours’. I was always interested in what they did and what they were interested in and they would then ALWAYS ask what I did. I would then go into my ‘BBQ speech’ and clearly and concisely tell them what I did and what problem I solved.
My husband quickly stopped snickering at me when my hairdresser became a client of mine on a 12-month business-mentoring package because as she said “I have the problem you solve”.
Always carry cards with you wherever you go and if you take an interest in people, especially people that you recognize might have the problem you solve, it will surprise you just how much of a chance you get to ‘network’.
Make 2014 the year that you start truly ‘networking’ and watch your business explode.
About the author
Natasa Denman is the next generation business mentor and product generator specialist. The founder of Ultimate 48 Hour Author, a book writing mentorship program, Natasa is the author of 4 books herself – The 7 Ultimate Secrets to Weight Loss, Ninja Couch Marketing, You Can Live The Life Of Your Dreams and her soon to be released latest, The Ultimate 48 Hour Author. For more information visit www.ultimate48hourauthor.com.au or email [email protected]