Growing a business through successful networking can be hugely rewarding. It can swell order books and take even established organisations to the next level. If you are considering networking as a path to growth, learn how to make the most of every business opportunity. Network for success with these top tips from marketing expert Mike Monk.
In demand as a speaker at networking events across the South East, Mike is a veteran networker who really knows how to engage new contacts. In this guide, he explains how you too can ‘Network for Success’. Follow his top 15 ways to make the most of business networking.
1. PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING
If you are attending a networking breakfast, trade exhibition or business club, go prepared. Don’t be the only person in the room who has to resort to asking for a pen to jot down your contact details. Avoid the embarrassment of looking like an amateur by carrying a notepad and pen in your pocket. Don’t forget to take along plenty of business cards but keep them out of sight until they are required.
2. FIND OUT WHO WILL BE ATTENDING
If possible, try and find out in advance who else will be attending the event. By doing this, you can make a note of the people most likely to be interested in your business. Don’t be afraid to target specific individuals to speak to. At the end of the event, obtain a visitor list. You may find this useful for future events and/or marketing.
3. SET YOURSELF SOME GOALS
Nobody wants to be approached by someone who come across as pushy or nervous. That is why it is worth setting yourself some goals. If you know who you want to talk to in advance – and why – you can plan ahead. Remember, be relaxed and enjoy networking. The best way to approach a potential new business contact is to ask the event host to introduce you. Try not to set referral targets too early on in your networking journey. Building relationships with potential new customers can take time. Think about what you are going to say when you meet people for the first time. Here’s a great format:
Introduce yourself and don’t forget to mention your company name
Ask ‘What do you do in your business?’
Talk about anything that is topical or relevant – even the weather
Keep questions relevant and simple, such as ‘What are the key challenges in your business?’ and ‘Have you found networking has been good for you?’
4. FULFIL OBJECTIVES EARLY ON
Get the introductions done early. By fulfilling your primary objectives at the start of an event, you can relax and enjoy the rest of it. Of course, that doesn’t mean to say you can’t add a few more introductions as the networking event continues!
5. MAXIMISE THE POTENTIAL
Arrive early and leave late - if you want to maximise the potential of networking. It’s surprising how many people you can meet in the extra few minutes before and after an event.
6. LOOK THE PART
Never attend a networking event in jeans or overly casual clothes. Dress smartly and ensure any name tag clearly displays your full name and company.
7. BE A REGULAR NETWORKER
Attend networking functions regularly. For best results, you should attend on a weekly or monthly basis – depending on the networking organisation’s schedule. Building a rapport with other networkers can take time, so don’t expect to be flooded with enquiries or leads at your first event.
8. BE PATIENT
Networking is an excellent way to grow your business, but it can take time and patience. You may not see concrete results for three to six months. That is because people need to get to know you in order to trust you. Once relationships are formed, they can open the floodgates to new business.
9. GIVE. GIVE. GIVE
Not money – but your time. The more effort you put into networking, the more you will get out of it.
10. SAY THANK YOU
Don’t shy away from sending follow-up emails. Thank event organisers and reach out to those you have met with a brief ‘thank you’.
11. REFERRAL ETIQUETTE
Always thank people for referrals. Not only will this show your appreciation, it will encourage them to send more leads your way.
12. STAY IN TOUCH
Remember to keep in contact with your exhibition/networking contacts. Don’t overlook the power of social media. Connect with them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Drop them an email or give them a call and ask if they would like to meet up for a coffee and a chat.
13. TRUST IS EVERYTHING
Nobody will do business with someone they don’t trust. That is why it is important not to expect instant results from networking. Consider building trust your key objective in the early months. Once people trust you, they will be more interested in what you do – and what your business can do for them.
14. HAVE FUN
Networking is all about being social. If you let yourself enjoy it, you will attend events looking and feeling relaxed. People naturally gravitate towards those whose company they feel relaxed in.
By following these key tips, you can ‘network for success’.