Imagine others promoting your business for you! This premise is why networking is a crucial part of growing any business, and the benefits are numerous. It’s an effective way to expand your knowledge, to learn from the success of others, to attain new clients, and to spread the word to others about your organization. Your return on investment includes an increase in brand equity, goodwill, and revenue.
In a world where the phrase “it’s not what you know but who you know” is king, networking provides the opportunity to foster connections with influential people. Once you nurture these contacts, people will begin to share their ideas, knowledge, and best practices with you. The ability to absorb valuable feedback and viewpoints, and unique points of view is essential when growing a business.
As you attend events regularly, people will recognize you more and more. This will help you build your reputation as a community-minded individual and local thought leader in your area of expertise.
You’re not only building connections with the people physically in the room but also within their spheres of influence. If you make an impression you will likely get a referral. Referrals are some of the most valuable leads for a business. People trust their friends’ recommendations and will base most, if not all, of their purchasing decisions around this influence.
Here are simple tips to becoming a networking expert.
- Arrive early: When you arrive early to an event, it is overall more enjoyable. People haven’t formed their groups yet, so it is easier to settle in and mingle.
- Start a conversation: The purpose of attending a networking event is to grow your acquaintance circle. The best way to start a conversation is by asking a question. Inquire as to what brought them to the event and what they do. Remember to listen and not sell your business. Try using, “Hi, my name is Sam, and you are?”
- Be recognizable: When appropriate, wear clothing with your company’s logo or a quality name badge with your name and logo. If attendees are able to quickly gather what organization you are representing, they may approach you for conversation.
- Bring a friend: Bringing a co-worker or peer to a networking event can be a calming idea. However, if you go this route, split up after arriving. It will do you no good to sit and talk to one another for the duration of the event.
- Be authentic: It is okay to admit it is your first time at the event. This might have a disarming affect and may spark additional conversation or introductions.
- Build relationships: Networking is about building a relationship before you need it. Don’t expect people to automatically give you referrals. It is a good practice to provide something for them first and in return they will help you at a later point in time.
- Attend consistently: If your goal is to establish long-term relationships, you must attend networking events consistently. If you can’t make one event, send another company representative to maintain the momentum.
- Follow up: Now that you have made these worthwhile connections, it is important to follow up with them. Consider sending an email to your fresh crop of acquaintances and relaying how nice it was to connect, or jump on LinkedIn and invite them to connect.