No matter what marketing or advertising tactics you’ve tried, you simply can’t deny the power of business networking. Whether it’s in-person or via social media, expanding your contact list only serves to make you a better entrepreneur. And it sure isn’t bad for your sales, either!
Business networking is essential to success. So how can you optimize your efforts? Here are 7 tips I have learned through my experience.
1. Know Your Niche
A common mistake I see with newbie business owners is that they try to be all things to all people. So when they attend a networking event, they might introduce themselves by saying “My company offers all kinds of marketing to any business.”
In reality, you might not be good at marketing consumer products. Or software. Or you might be better at analytics than content marketing. The better you zero in on a niche, the better you can target your networking strategy. Although it’s tempting to try to be all things to all people, being specific and highlighting the strong points of your business can go a long ways in discovering your ideal market.
2. Mingle With the Right People
Another common mistake is when people network with other people who do the same thing they do. For example, if you’re a lawyer, your natural tendency might be to attend events with other lawyers present. While you might get referral business this way, it’s more of a shot in the dark.
You’re better off attending events that cater to the kinds of people that buy your services. If you’re an intellectual property attorney, go to invention conferences or software events to meet the people you can actually help. If you want to expose yourself to potential clients, make it easy for them. Go to them!
3. Boil Down Your Elevator Speech
At any event, you’ll be asked what you do. Be specific but succinct. A few sentences should be fine, and leave room for people to ask details about your company.
Work on your elevator pitch (a brief summary of what you do that can quickly catch the attention of a potential customer) so that it’s engaging. Consider even starting it by asking your audience a thought-provoking question. Then dive into the ways you or your company can help. Having this prepped and ready ahead of time can save you time and guarantee that you are ready when opportunity knocks on your door.
4. Be Inquisitive
As much as you’d love to talk about what you do all evening, you’ll get better results if you ask others questions. Ask about their companies, and about their roles. Not only will you show interest, but you might even stumble across an opportunity to help.
Do your best to remember details about the people you meet. You’ll need those details for our final tip!
5. Make Your Business Card Memorable
Everyone uses those standard-sized business cards. But I have a friend who uses a thin, long card that, every time she pulls one out, gets a lot of attention at events. Invest a bit more in hiring a creative designer who can come up with something clever, or look to sites like MOO to design your own.
Your business card is often the first impression you give, so invest properly to make it look professional and original. Business cards can be a great opportunity to be unique and let your business stand out!
6. Rehearse Beforehand
There is nothing cheesy about standing in front of a mirror and practicing what you’ll say to the people you meet at networking events. In fact, it can help you portray the right image. If you’re speaking too fast, practice slowing down. Or practice these speech exercises to avoid stumbling over your words.
7. Follow Up
After each event, send either an email or a handwritten note (bonus points on the latter) to the people you’ve met. Mention one of those details you were supposed to remember to personalize your note and remind them of your conversation.
Stay in touch with anyone who seems like a potential client. Take them out to coffee or lunch and let the relationship develop. Only when it seems appropriate should you push for a sale. Instead, build trust with each person and see what makes sense in terms of how you can help.
Networking, if done properly, can be your biggest referral of new sales. So get out there and put these tips to good use!
How about you? What networking tips do you have to offer? Tell us in the comments!
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