The secrets to networking success: how to make the most of your precious time
As anyone in business knows, networking is one of the best ways to sell a service and bring new clients on board. But since everyone wants new business, networking events have sprung up all over America, resulting in a competitive space – and a confusing one too. Deciding which events to attend is challenging, especially because there’s so much bad advice doing the rounds on the web. We’ve collected some of the good advice, as well as some new business alternatives you can try from the office.
Choose paid events over the free alternatives
A free networking event sounds great, doesn’t it? Imagine being able to sell your services and not pay a cent to do it! But the reality is a little different. Almost every free event in existence is being hosted by someone with a corporate agenda – in other words, someone who is going to try and sell you something. Inevitably, your business objectives will fall by the wayside as you try and keep salespeople at bay.
In contrast, paid events bring people who are genuinely looking for business partners or service providers together. Look out for networking dinners and functions that are attended by professionals in your industry. And remember: if you’re paying for it, it’s often worth it.
Taking a friend or a business partner will encourage you to mingle in a safe space without getting out and making yourself known. It’s human nature to feel uncomfortable in a social setting with complete strangers, but if you go solo, you’re more likely to pluck up the courage to start talking.
It’s a two-way street
You can’t arrive at a networking event and only think about yourself. Sure, it’s tempting to shout about your business from the rooftops, and yes, you’ve probably got a business that deserves to be recognized. But a far better tactic is to hold back a little bit, ask questions first, strike up a rapport with the people there, then favor a low-key sell. You don’t need to seal the deal then and there. The goal is to get a number, an email address, and start moving towards a chat over a cup of coffee a week or two down the line.
Consider setting up a blog on your website or a whitepaper that you publish quarterly. Then, invite visitors to your website to sign up for said blog or whitepaper. With these email addresses in your possession, introduce marketing messages into the fold.
Keep yourself relevant
Don’t let a lead go cold. And don’t let a prior client forget about you. Communicate. Even if it’s a casual email asking a former client how things are, keep yourself in the headspace of the people around you. Networking is as much about using the connections you have as making new ones.
Make use of Linkedin
And in the spirit of maximizing your network, look no further than Linkedin. The platform is used by serious business people to forge relationships and get work done. Consider a paid membership or sign up for the free version at the very least.