Networking is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization. It is the use of contacts to acquire information, advice, and referrals. Here are some helpful networking tips that will allow your business to grow.
- Establish goals. Just like any business endeavor, you need to set considerable goals so you can decide the best networking strategy for you. Having goals is also important to deciding how you'll judge the success of your networking efforts.
- Create a strategy. Now that you know what kind of people you want to meet, figure out what organizations and events they are likely to attend. Are there key industry trade groups whose conferences you should be attending? How about niche groups such as networking organizations for women or minority entrepreneurs?
- Make the time. Find out how much time you need to dedicate to networking to achieve your goals, and how much time you can realistically spend. Depending on your goals, you may want to focus on one organization or spread your efforts amongst several groups.
- Do your homework. When you go to networking events, be geared up with plenty of business cards and your best elevator pitch, a brief one- or two-sentence description of your business that clearly expresses what you do and is captivating enough that people will want to ask questions to know more. Bring pens for jotting notes on the back of business cards.
- Mingle. Spending all your time with people you already know defeats the point of networking. The more you network the more you do it, the less scary it becomes. If you’re nervous about being rejected, try finding other newcomers; they'll be eternally grateful.
- Be a good listener. Listening is the secret to increasing sales, and it's also the secret to successful networking. When you meet someone new, ask questions and pay attention to the answers. When you listen carefully, two things happen. First, you'll spot requirements that your business can fill. Second, you'll gain a reputation as a great communicator, which will make more people want to approach you.
- Be a leader. Join a committee or take a leadership role so you'll learn more, meet more people, and make yourself unforgettable.
- Follow up. If you don't follow up on the contacts you make, it's all for nothing. Take action on what you talked about at the event—if you discussed meeting for lunch, follow up with a specific invitation; if you suggested talking by phone, set a time for the call. Acting within 48 hours helps bolster you in the other person's mind and starts structuring the relationship.
- Assimilate online and offline. Include your real-world networking contacts into your social networking efforts. When you meet someone at an event, follow up with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Similarly, meeting up with your online contacts offline can be a great way to take those relationships to the next point.
- Be determined. The key to successful networking is perseverance. As you get to know more people and preserve and grow those relationships, your circle expands exponentially. As you do business with your new contacts, your business will grow exponentially, too.