What comes to your mind when you hear the words "business networking"? Most likely, you'll picture a room full of people chatting with each other and exchanging business cards. But business networking is more than just small talk and card-swapping. It's the process of creating mutually beneficial relationships with other professionals and leveraging these to create new opportunities for both parties.
Many of us network for the primary purpose of meeting new connections to expand the numbers in our network. However, the true spirit of networking is relationship building and in doing so, expanding your circle of influence. If you give the time and effort to nurture the relationships you've formed, you'll find that networking can be a significant driver of business growth.
Essential Tips for Newbies
New to networking? You're in for quite an adventure! Here are some tips to help you get started.
Identify your objectives and desired outcomes - What do you want to achieve with networking? Do you want to create awareness of your business? Are you looking for referrals? Or do you want practical knowledge on trends and innovations in your industry? Identifying what you want to achieve gives you a goal that you can work toward, helping you stay focused and consistent.
Start small - Look to your immediate friends, family, and co-workers for introductions. Join local business and networking groups. Join a vibrant co-working space! Offer to help out at community or business events. From there, you can start growing your list of connections.
Share your passion - Before attending a networking event, you'll want to prepare an elevator pitch - a short introduction to who you are and what you do. Instead of immediately selling your business, talk about your passion or the reason behind the business. For example, if you're a chiropractor you can say "I've always been passionate about health and wellness and I want to help people achieve their best health, so that’s why I built my practice". Passion is infectious and makes you memorable to others!
People first, business later - Keep in mind that selling is NEVER the objective of networking. Think about how you can help first. Do you have a skill/information/contacts in certain areas that might be helpful to others? Helping and giving to others first helps build strong relationships. Referrals will naturally come as a result of relationship building.
Make your business card stand out – Look for ways to make your business card or collateral unique. Aside from having the usual contact information, perhaps you can add a quote, change the shape, or add an interesting graphic. It will help you make a first impression and work later to help them recall the conversation they’ve had with you.
Follow up - Make small but consistent goals to meet new people and follow up regularly with existing and new contacts. This is how relationships are forged. Send them an email, greet them on their birthday, invite them out for coffee. Staying in touch is crucial if you want to be a successful networker.
Finally, have fun! Networking can be exciting when done in a fun and supportive environment that fosters relationship building. Good luck and happy networking!
About the Author: A Fresh Approach to Networking, More Connections Less Blah! Fresh Networking helps businesses succeed by providing more opportunities to make connections in fun and interesting ways through local Fresh networking hubs, community and professional events. Fresh doesn’t believe in rigid, boring networking or enforced referrals. We believe positive, motivated and dynamic people will naturally do business together. www.freshnetworking.com.au