Networking is a cost effective way to enhance your marketing efforts, but networking opportunities are frequently neglected by small business owners. We shared an Entrepreneur article on our Facebook page earlier this week that contains some excellent networking tips. Today, we wanted to expand upon that with a few specific small business networking pointers of our own…
1. Keep an Open Mind
You are likely to meet prospective customers at networking events, but converting customers should not be your primary objective. Keep an open mind when meeting new people. In addition to new customers, you may find valuable referral sources, vendors or new hires that can help you to attract and retain even more customers over time.
A salesy, shortsighted approach to networking has a much lower ceiling. Best case scenario, you will run out of people to sell to. Worst case scenario, thinly vailed sales pitches will damage your professional reputation.
2. Be Yourself
Yes, you should absolutely spend time fine tuning some language about your product or service, but it’s important to keep things conversational. Ditch the rehearsed sales pitch. Hone in on the most unique aspects of your business, and speak candidly about them. You should be able to describe what you do (and why it’s special) in one sentence (two max).
Make sure that you are truly listening when others are speaking. Ask questions, and look for ways to connect with your fellow networkers on a professional and personal level.
3. Follow Up in an Appropriate Way
Your newfound networking friends probably grabbed one of your business cards, but there are effective ways to ensure that you stay in touch...
- Connect on LinkedIn. Be sure to customize your invitation requests with details about where and how you met (i.e. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you at last week’s chamber event. I am sure we will run into one another again soon, but feel free to email me if you want to continue our conversation about…).
- Send a personalized message via email if your new contacts aren’t on LinkedIn or if you promised a more specific follow up.
- Don't call. Phone calls may seem intrusive unless one was specifically requested.
- Don't add new contacts to your email marketing lists unless they have formally opted in.
4. Stay in Touch by Making Introductions
Consider making helpful introductions among professionals who would benefit from working with one another, or forward job listings to qualified candidates if someone in your network is hiring. When you make email introductions, it is best to contact each party individually before sending an email with everyone cc’d. This sort of professional match-making keeps you in front of your network and reinforces your reputation as a solutions provider. It may also encourage others to help you out, when you are in need of particular resource or recommendation.
When making introductions, always use your best judgement. Your referrals have the power to reflect positively or poorly upon you. Only vouch for colleagues that you trust.
Additional Tools and Tips
An agency like Rooted ID cannot effectively network on your behalf, but we can provide tools to enhance your networking efforts. PLANT sessions can be extremely beneficial to business owners who need help articulating the value of their product or service, and FEED sessions typically include some networking suggestions. Schedule a complimentary consultation to learn more.