Networking is imperative when it comes to business growth. It allows us to meet and interact with individuals who might become our clients, offer circumstances to create partnerships, or help to spread the word about the work we are doing. To some, the idea of networking can seem daunting, but creating a solid networking plan will help to exponentially expand the number of opportunities that can cross the path of your business. Here are 14 steps you can take that will lead your business to networking success:
1. Set Goals
The first step in creating a successful networking plan is to set achievable goals within a particular time frame. Laying this groundwork at the very start of your networking journey will give you an easy map to follow as you progress on your path and will also help to keep you accountable.
2. Utilize Social Media
With the rise of the internet, networking doesn’t always look the way it did twenty or thirty years ago. Taking advantage of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is a great way to showcase what you are all about and gain an audience in the process. It can also help to keep you connected to like-minded individuals and show you what they’re doing to stay relevant.
3. Attend Events
Using social media does not, however, mean you should avoid networking events. There’s a lot to be said for face-to-face interaction and speaking in-person about what you do. Do your research first to make sure the venue you’re looking to attend is a good fit for you, filled with people who share your interests.
4. Be Professional
We’ve all heard it said that first impressions are everything. Knowing that, make sure your first interaction with potential clients and/or other professionals who might send you referrals, is a positive one. Take pride in your appearance, conduct yourself in a professional manner and be polite.
5. Be Genuine
Honesty goes a long way! Be yourself and speak from the heart when you talk about your business and why it’s important to you. Your passion for what you do will speak volumes.
6. Be Positive
When you show up for a networking event, put your best foot forward. Avoid trashing the competition in your field or being boastful or arrogant about your successes. It’s perfectly okay to tell some of your success stories when speaking about what you do.
Try not to overthink what you’re doing. If you’re particularly shy or awkward in social situations, you might think about taking some public speaking classes before you attend a networking event so that people can get to know you instead of your nerves! Toastmasters is a great organization that can help with this and has meetings all over the world.
8. Be Prepared
Don’t show up to a networking event empty-handed. Make sure to bring plenty of business cards, brochures, or postcards you can offer to the people you meet who seem genuinely interested in what you do. Also, come up with a 10-15 second elevator pitch that succinctly describes what it is you do so that you can confidently speak up when you’re asked about it.
9. Be Engaged
Networking is not simply an opportunity to go and talk about yourself and your business. It’s equally important for you to hear about the services or products that other people are offering as well. Actively listen, make eye contact and ask questions.
10. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Bring with you a willingness to step up and meet new people. Introduce yourself and start conversations, even if it’s not the most comfortable thing to do.
11. Work the Room
A common mistake during networking events is to meet one group of people and spend the entire time speaking with just them. Don’t be afraid to kindly break away from a conversation that’s taking up the majority of your time so that you can move around the room and make new connections.
12. Collect Emails
If you feel somebody might be interested in your services or would be a great referral source, make sure to collect their business cards as well as giving them yours. Adding them to your email list will help you to keep them up to date with any events you have coming up.
13. Follow Up
There’s no purpose in exchanging information if you don’t do anything with it. After an event, find a reason to follow up with the people you’ve met to further develop your relationship.
14. Make Referrals
Lastly, remember that networking is a two-way street. If you want others to refer to you, you’ve got to be willing to refer to them. When you’ve referred a potential client to somebody, send them a brief text or an email to let them know who they should be expecting to hear from.
Having a networking plan to follow can improve your efficiency and ultimately lead to more generated business.
Contact the author