The most powerful form of marketing comes from personal contacts, recommendations and word of mouth. Face to face business networking meetings are an invaluable way to forge new contacts, raise the profile of your business and make the most of new opportunities. Many people are nervous about attending their first networking meeting. Who knows, you might just enjoy it and eventually decide to one day run your own networking group! If you’ve signed up for business networking meetings, it’s vital that you make the most of them, so read on for our top tips on successful networking:
Do your research
Start by researching the best networking meeting for your type of business. Some meetings are focused on tradespeople, business women, or Mums who have recently started up on their own. Find out who the speakers are, and find out who usually goes along to the meetings, what they do and decide who would be the most useful contacts to speak to. Many networking groups are also on Facebook, so you can join them online and introduce yourself, which will make meeting people much easier when you attend your first meeting.
Stay focused and positive
Networking meetings can be daunting, particularly if you don’t know anyone and you have recently started your own business. But negative emotions such as insecurity, fear or shyness can have a very detrimental effect on the success of your networking, so make sure that you go in prepared, focused and make a real effort to smile, make eye contact and be friendly. This will pay off very quickly and people will respond to your positive approach.
Decide on your objectives
You won’t know if your networking meetings are successful until you decide exactly what your objectives are, and what you hope to achieve from the meetings. Obviously you want to find new clients, but consider other opportunities that could also help you raise the profile of your business. Are there other attendees who you could partner with to make joint recommendations, or pass on extra work if you both become busy? Or are there well-connected people who you could ask to spread the word about your business? Make sure that you consider how you can help other people in turn, as this will make them far more likely to want to help you!
Go in prepared
For successful networking, you’ll obviously need some business cards that you can hand out to people, and somewhere to keep other contacts’ business cards too. There is a huge selection of business card designs available, so opt for one that suits your type of business and gets your details across simply and clearly. If you are doing a short talk or presentation about your business, make sure that you keep it focused and maximise unique selling points. It’s a good idea to practise any presentations at home first to help them run smoothly on the day.
Follow up quickly
Once you’ve attended your business networking meetings, met a few useful contacts and given out some cards, it’s important to follow up any new contacts quickly and certainly within 2 working days. When you follow up, make sure that you keep the relationship moving forward by suggesting a date to meet up and discuss ideas further.
Business networking is a fantastic way to accelerate the profile and success of your business start-up. By adopting a positive and proactive approach to networking, you will build up a network of useful contacts which will open up many different opportunities for you along the way. We wish you the very best of luck with your business networking!
Photo Credit: Flickr/Scott Swigart