Networking for your business is as good as having your personal billboard with you. As per statistics, about 90% of the new business for small business owners comes from word-of-mouth recommendations, referrals and face to face networking. It’s all about establishing connections, making new contacts, and finding new prospects/clients for ultimately promoting your business. Merely turning up at various events is not the objective. Instead, it involves a bigger picture of creating long-term business and professional relationships for the business to grow rapidly.
In case you are looking to break into new markets and deepen your knowledge about clients and about your competitors, networking works quite well. Here are few benefits of networking for your business which can help you immensely in the long run.
Excellent Marketing Tool
Marketing is an indispensable part of any company’s strategy for moving ahead. Marketing also involves a certain budget which not all businesses can afford, especially startups. Startups have a limited marketing budget and for them, networking and meeting up with people for garnering new clients is an added bonus.
By conversing with different people at networking events, business owners can showcase their business by talking about it and interacting with them. Creating awareness about the business is a great way to keep your business in people’s mind so that in case a specific need arise, they can contact you to know more about your services.
Focus on Sharing your USP to Prospects
When you meet people at networking events and want to tell them about the business, talk to them about rock solid reasons why they should use your services and the reason they should prefer you in comparison to other competitors in the niche. Avoid using phrases such as “most effective/efficient/best…”. Instead, focus on giving real statistics which can illustrate real benefits for them if they select you as the service provider. Showing a work portfolio and showcasing your work done for other clients is also another practical way of promoting yourself.
Creating a Network Goal and Plan to Achieve it
Whenever you attend any networking event, be sure to focus on meeting only the best quality contacts in the event instead of wasting your time and energy on those who are not even worth it and are uninterested in knowing anything about your business. Since time is quite restricted in such type of events, it is important to judge the right number of manageable people who have the potential to become your future clients. Do not underestimate the event Invitation sent to you which most probably contains names of people in the hosting committee and on the board list who can be potential targets for building your network.
Proper Follow-up is the Key
Following up with all the people you have spoken with and interacted through an email is quite crucial. Don’t spam them or bother them repeatedly, though. Once you meet any crucial lead, you have to reach out to them within 48 hours and follow-up with them. Reminding them about yourself and the business is quite significant if you want to remain on the top of their memory. In fact, if you live in the same city as your contact, handwritten notes are also a creative way to remind them about you. Contacting them through LinkedIn too is a great way of reaching out to them.
You can also keep reminders by ‘followup files’ which are basically color-coded reminders for your own self about those people whom you can schedule once a month for a meetup. You should mention some information about them and the event wherein you met each other. In this way, you will be able to keep a track of all such prospects and whenever any name pops up, reach out to them by sending a reminder email.
Carry a good number of business cards with you as you never know how many people might turn up for the event. Do not forget to ask for a business card from the prospects with whom you talked during the event.
Participating in relevant events should be the main factor for you. Start-up meet ups, entrepreneur events and workshops arranged by the local chamber of commerce are quite commonly held for small business owners. Remember, you don’t have to wait for the other person to approach you and talk. Take the initiative yourself.
Come up with creative ways for initiating, starting off a conversation and probing potential prospects to know their requirements and business they are looking for. By doing this, you will be increasing your confidence in this entire process to face more networking events.
Always make the first move and start off by introducing yourself confidently followed by asking them a bit about their business and their role. Asking open-ended questions while maintaining a calm demeanor to start conversations is the best approach. People like to talk about themselves and therefore listen to them and their requirements, while ultimately making a smooth transition about your business. At times, it is easier to approach a couple of people discussing a relevant topic amongst them and joining the conversation.