5 Networking Tips For Small Business Owners
Networking is an essential skill that small business owners should take time to master because of the intrinsic benefits associated with established new industry connections and leads. While some individuals are blessed with the innate ability to socialize and connect with others seemingly effortlessly, others must make a focused effort to get out there and find people to connect with. Through successful networking, you can help your small business to grow in different ways. Some contacts that you meet may turn into direct leads. Others may provide you with substantial resources or may connect you with resources that you can use to grow your business in various ways. Businesses simply cannot be successful when they operate in a bubble. If you want to improve your networking efforts as a small business owner, consider putting these effective tips to use today.
1. Make Time in Your Schedule for Networking Opportunities
There are some opportunities for networking that you may simply stumble upon, but most small business owners must also create or find opportunities. Everything from attending trade shows to going to organization-sponsored luncheons and more give you the opportunity to network with others in or related to your field. As a first step, brainstorm the top websites that you can use to locate networking opportunities, such as industry websites, organization or association websites and more. Then, schedule time each month to research scheduled events that you can attend by reviewing these websites. Go the extra mile to book your registration and to mark these events on your calendar. This effort should be made on a regular basis so that you always have at least a few pending networking opportunities looming on your calendar.
2. Prepare for Each Planned Networking Event
Planned networking events often provide you with various opportunities to get the word out about your business’s products and services. For example, some organization luncheons may give you the opportunity to sponsor the event or to set up a booth. Explore these options thoroughly. Take time to prepare customized marketing materials that are most appealing and educational to the type of audience who will be in attendance. Always have a stack of business cards available in your pocket or purse so that you can easily pass one off to someone else as needed. In some cases, you may want to jot down a few notes about someone who you meet, so always have a pen handy as well. It is a good idea to prepare marketing materials for an event several days beforehand and to allow yourself ample time the night before to get your business cards, pen and other items ready.
3. Look for Unplanned Networking Opportunities
While there are many planned networking opportunities that you can take advantage of, there may also be unplanned opportunities. It is easy to let unplanned opportunities pass you by, so you must be able to identify these opportunities and to fully take advantage of them. For example, if you are standing in a long line at a coffee shop in a commercial area, there is a good chance that a professional in a related field may be next to you. Simply start up a conversation to see if there is a mutual connection. If you are on a plane, sitting at a doctor’s office waiting room or in some other captive area, get in the habit of striking up a conversation with someone nearby. You never know who you might meet and how a relationship with one random person may change your life.
4. Be Prepared to Give a Brief Sales Pitch
If you are blessed with the art of being a skilled public speaker, you may not need to prepare significantly to attend networking events. However, if you tend to put your foot in your mouth or find that you are at a loss for words, proper preparation is necessary. Many people who you meet will ask you what your company is about, what your background is and more. After all, networking is about finding the right connections that can mutually benefit both parties. Ensure that you have a thorough but concise explanation of your business to spout off when requested. More than that, ensure that you ask the other person about what they do so that you can determine if you have made a sound connection that you want to pursue.
5. Know When and How to Take It to the Next Level
When you meet someone, you must quickly decide if this is a person who you want to start doing business with. Consider what your products or services are. As the person is talking, think about how your products or services may benefit them in different ways. Ask leading questions to determine their ultimate need for what your business offers. Likewise, that person may also offer products or services that benefit you or your business in some way. Make inquiries about their offerings as well. There may be many instances when there simply is not much of a connection at first glance. However, you may ultimately be able to combine marketing efforts to set up some other mutually beneficial arrangement. Always take the person’s business card, and get in the habit of jotting down a few notes about the conversation. If you believe that the person may be a beneficial connection to pursue, ensure that you reach out to that person soon after your initial meeting to set up a coffee or lunch date and to further discuss the option to do business together.
If networking and business socialization does not come naturally to you, you may need to make a strong effort to master these skills. It is easy to get into the routine of focusing entirely on your business and failing to network outside of your current circle. However, networking can help you to expand your business in strategic ways for growth and increased prosperity. Make an effort to incorporate each of these tips into your current activities to benefit more fully from networking.