Business networking is an incredibly valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from the success of others, attain new clients and tell others about who you are and what you do. I’ve been to over 200 networking events in the past – it enables people to put a face to a name and adds a physical touch to your business, something which is becoming more and more difficult in today’s digital age!
Here at Yellowball we recommend businesses utilising networking as a way to gain new clients and to build a sustainable business. Here are some top tips that I’ve learned over the years to help any business owners or employees looking to get involved with networking:
Choose the right event
As we all know, the reason we go to networking events is to meet people who can directly help with growing our business or people who can introduce us to other professionals who might need our products or services. Think about your target audience before attending an event, who are they and why are they likely to be attending? Whilst I have made numerous valuable connections at networking events, I have also learnt the hard way by wasting hours upon hours at events which are not relevant to my networking goals. It is imperative that you identify who you are looking to target and research the event. Before you sign up and commit to attending the event, ask to see the guest list, this will help to ensure your target audience will be there and help you to avoid turning up to the wrong type of event.
Don’t be desperate
We’ve all attended that networking event where there is someone running round with a handful of flyers shoving information down your neck. Don’t be that guy. Networking is not about selling, in fact it’s the complete opposite. Individuals are more likely to do business with people they like and trust. Therefore it is important to enjoy yourself and to build your own network, offering advice is a great way to build a relationship rather than constantly attempting to flog your own services. Gradually over time you will start recognising people on the networking circuit and recommendations will become a regular thing!
Set yourself a goal
Take the time to research the attendees of the event beforehand. Time fly’s at networking events, so try to reach out to people prior to the event on LinkedIn, perhaps arrange to meet up for a coffee, or briefly introduce yourself and let them know you’re looking forward to meeting them at the upcoming event. Being proactive about identifying your high value targets at the event will produce more results than just turning up on the day and hoping that the right person introduces themselves. Even if you do not manage to meet up prior to the event, the first interaction has already occurred (albeit digitally) and therefore a conversation at the event is far more likely.
Set a goal to have a valuable conversation with at least five people during the event and exchange business cards for a follow up. More than five might be a little too ambitious, although aim for more if you think you’re up for the challenge.
When following up with someone you meet while networking, thank them for their time, briefly remind them who you are and what you do and reinstate the main details from your conversation and any action items you discussed. Also, suggest a few possible times to meet with them.
Of course, some people may not respond, so don’t worry if they don’t follow up. People may be busy, and a lack of response likely has nothing to do with you. Consider contacting them via linkedin, or call their office— do whatever it takes to get the meeting. Be persistent and creative. Whether you decide to follow up through LinkedIn or via email, always include a key takeaway from your interaction.
The key aspect to all of this is being proactive. Networking events exist because people need introductions and building connections is an important part of business. Don’t be brash, but certainly don’t spend the whole evening speaking to your colleague, you do that everyday at the office. Understand that proactively introducing yourself and following up will produce far more results. After all you are attending the event with purpose, so it is up to you to ensure that the event fulfils that purpose!