Being in business is not just about supplying a service or selling a product. It involves the steps you need to do to get to that point.It is important to get to know people and let others know what you have to offer. This is what we call networking.
Networking is one of the most valuable business tools you can use. I believe the key is to keep in mind that commitment and consistency are crucial to reap the rewards from networking. When I first started my business I attended many networking events and would often wonder why I was there. Very few results were apparent and minimal business opportunities were generated from the time I spend at these events. It wasn’t until at least six months down the track that people began to contact me and say, I met you at that networking event and now have a need for your service. When people meet you on multiple occasions over a period of time, they get to know a bit more about you each time. People like to build trust with you, particularly if they are planning to do business with you. It isn’t just about them knowing what service you provide or product you sell, it is about building a relationship and building trust.
The two main forms of networking for small business include:
FACE-TO-FACE NETWORKING EVENTS– The traditional form of networking is still very necessary and is the most powerful for building trust.It enables you to put a face to the name.Make sure you have business cards to hand over to new contacts. A great tactic I learnt recently is, if it is a new event, focus on meeting three new people and spend a bit of time with those three people rather than running around like a madman trying to quickly meet everyone and not really getting to know anyone. Following up with an email after the event is also important even if it is simply to touch base.
SOCIAL MEDIA – The new online way to network. Having a business Facebook page, for example, is just like networking. It isn’t a quick sales tool, but is another form of developing relationships with those who are interested in your products or services. Be consistent, answer questions and enquiries and participate. On LinkedIn you can join groups and participate in discussions on topics of interest or that will benefit your business.
The networking investment is so worthwhile. It helps you get to that amazing stage in business when you can proudly say that your business is based on referrals.
So plan ahead, pencil in to attend a number of networking events per month and enjoy them. Cross promote with both types of networking too.Find those you met in person on Facebook or LinkedIn, and let people who you meet face to face also know you are online and keen to connect.