Whether you’re working your way up to corporate ladder or forging connections for your established business, building relationships is crucial to your success. For many entrepreneurs whose businesses are thriving, successful networking is one of the most common threads.
According to more than half of the respondents in a survey by The UPS Store, making connections and building relationships are among the most beneficial aspects of networking with other small businesses. Sixty-one percent of small business owners say they want to establish in-person relationships. Attending networking and meetup events is an excellent way for entrepreneurs to form new relationships, share experiences, celebrate their hard work and connect with potential customers.
The following tips can help small business owners make the most of networking events.
Practice Your Pitch
When introducing yourself, be prepared to give a brief explanation of your business, boiled down to a couple of sentences. Be sure to include your business name, the solution you provide and anything that makes you stand out. The key is to deliver enough context that others can engage in meaningful conversation while keeping it succinct enough that you have plenty of time to listen.
Be Prepared to Participate (Or Not)
Successful networking is as much about giving as it is receiving. Challenge yourself to meet three new people. Ask open-ended questions and listen to what others are saying. Actively participating not only leads to more productive conversations, but it also helps build stronger relationships. Akin to speed dating, not everyone you encounter is a suitable connection. If it feels as if the conversation is going nowhere, go ahead and move on.
Embrace The Competition
It may feel counterintuitive to forge a relationship with a direct competitor, but there’s some obvious benefit to trading notes with someone who is operating in your market from a similar vantage point. Remember, while neither of you is going to give up proprietary information, a respectful dialogue may get your wheels turning to think about solving a problem in a new way.
Represent Your Brand Well
You are every bit the face of your business in this setting as you are within your business walls. Dress the part and present yourself as you would to potential customers. Make sure you have updated business cards, as 75 percent of survey respondents said they are the most common marketing tool used to promote their business. Relax, be respectful and remain authentic.
Be Mindful of Social Media
According to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment survey, 60 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates.
“Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “And with more and more people using social media, it’s not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well.”
Bear in mind that your next potential clients or vendors may look you up on social media or business networking sites while evaluating their decision to work with you.
Retain Your Newfound Knowledge
After meeting a handful (or more) of new people, all the faces and names can run together. Jot down a reminder on the back of business cards you gather. When you get back to your desk, take some time to make notes on everyone you met. Include pertinent contact information and details of your conversation, areas where the connection may be fruitful in the future and any immediate follow-up. Tech savvy networkers can scan the business cards to a smartphone with an app such as CamCard. This app allows you to add meeting notes, integrate your data with other CRM applications, as well as exchange virtual business cards.