My top 10 networking tips for entrepreneurs
When I first graduated from college and started hearing about networking in business, it sounded mysterious, like there was some magic formula for how to network and succeed. Now that I’ve been out of college for many years and successfully used networking to build my marketing company from a single client into a successful organization, I’ve learned that networking in business isn’t difficult at all. These 10 tricks to marketing your business through networking helped me, and I’ve coached other entrepreneurs to success by reminding them of these 10 networking tips for marketing.
Networking tip #1: At first, it will seem random. When you first start attending networking events, you aren’t sure where to invest your time. The truth is that there is no one place that works for everyone. Some small business owners have a lot of success through networking events like Chambers of Commerce. Others choose industry groups. Some people combine networking with their other life activities, such as networking on the sidelines at their kid’s hockey game. Carry business cards with you everywhere. Go into every social situation with the attitude that you never know what will happen and eventually you’ll see patterns of where you meet the people who help you the most and who you can help in return.
Networking tip #2: Prep your elevator speech. You should always be ready when someone asks you what you do for a living. When I owned my marketing company, my biggest client ever came from a contact I made at a friend’s birthday party. If you’re not sure how to create your elevator speech, see Networking 101: What you need to know to grow your small business.
Networking tip #3: Go thinking about what you can give, not what you want to get. This mindset shift will change your approach from networking marketing to networking to be supportive. You get what you give, so help others and they’ll come back to help you.
Networking tip #4: Don’t try to make a sale, try to find just one person to follow up with after the event. Too many young people or new business owners think that a networking event isn’t a success if they don’t make a sale. That attitude will cause you to be too aggressive. Think of networking as something that takes time. Don’t try to rush the process. Just try to find one person worth following up with the next day. Wondering how to do that? Read on to networking tip #10.
Networking tip #5: Don’t talk to the people you came with the entire time. I know it’s hard to force yourself to talk to strangers. Unfortunately, if you don’t go out of your way to meet new people, you just wasted your time. You’re at a networking event to network. Talk to your co-workers or friends another time.
Networking tip #6: Don’t feel bad joining a group - if you’re at a networking meeting, everyone knows you’re there to network. Just walk up to a group of people who seem like they might be friendly, stand in an opening near the circle and when someone makes eye contact, smile and introduce yourself. If you really feel awkward, it’s ok to apologize for interrupting their conversation. There’s an excellent chance they’ll tell you it’s just fine that you did.
Networking tip #7: If you’re at a networking event with a sit down meal, before you grab a chair and sit down, walk around the table, introduce yourself and shake hands with everyone. You’ll seem like the most outgoing person in the room and it’s likely that everyone else at the table will be glad you broke the ice.
Networking tip #8: If you’re having a standing conversation and you want to move on, it’s ok. Don’t feel bad leaving a conversation. Simply wait for a pause, then say, “It was nice talking with you.” You can always add that you want to refresh your drink or that you see someone you know that you need to greet, if you feel the need, but it’s not necessary.
Networking tip #9: Connect the people you meet with other people you know. Often, you’ll meet someone who can’t help you, but can help a friend of yours. Or, you’ll meet someone with a challenge you can’t solve, but you know the person who can. Connect those two people. You’ll be seen as a power networker by both.
Networking tip #10: Follow up the next day. Remember that one person work following up with? Be sure to do it! If you’re not sure how, here’s a bonus tip. I usually send an email saying something like, “I was having so much fun talking with you and felt like we didn’t get to finish our conversation. I’d like to schedule time for coffee with you.” Then, give the other person a few options for when you can meet and close the email by saying you look forward to seeing them again. It works every time!
Networking is a slow process, but it does work. Just get out there, attend networking events, and eventually the pieces of the puzzle come together, making networking an excellent marketing tactic for every entrepreneur.