1. Have a networking plan
Also, list what you can offer the organizations you join. Do you have valuable connections, ability to sponsor events, plenty of time to volunteer, leadership skills, public speaking talent, event planning know-how, or social media expertise? Determine what time commitment you can make and what times of day would work with your other business and personal commitments. Realize that in addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner group events, networking involves one-to-one meetings that need to be scheduled into your week.
2. Find your best opportunities
If you are joining an organization, make sure its meetings fit into your schedule, as you will need to attend regularly to become recognized as part of the group and taken seriously. Don't skip an organization's small informal social events as they will likely give you more time to know people than the larger events with speakers and a set agenda. Be aware that in some groups, you must be on the board or a committee to get enough traction to get referrals. Talk to current members to find out about the culture.
3. Think out of the chamber
Whether strictly for business, or not, choose groups with meetings you will enjoy as you will be more motivated to show up and participate enthusiastically. In turn, you will make more rewarding relationships.
4. Prepare for each event
Bring enough business cards to distribute, and brochures if they may be left on a table for attendees. Bring paper and pen to take notes.
Give yourself a time-limit to talk to each person at an event. If the event is large, focus your efforts. For example, if your business serves young families, seek out business owners who sell to young families and approach members who might be young parents themselves. Get cards from the people who fit the profile you are looking for, so you can invite them to meet later and continue your discussion. Have your phone or paper calendar handy for scheduling one-to-ones and upcoming events.
5. Get to know the person
Connecting with people you meet after the meeting, in person and online, and reconnecting with familiar faces at events is a good way to develop solid, trusting relationships. Introverts often excel at this as well.
6. Keep up the pace
So, be an extrovert to keep the pace and be an introvert to listen empathetically and make close allies.
7. Be a fun host
8. Bring a wing man or woman
Tell a story about how your friend helped you or a customer. Be sure your buddy knows enough about what you do to talk to others about it and enough good things about you to recommend you. If you don’t have a buddy with you, you can still share his card and promote his services when the opportunity arises. You can even invite a new contact and your buddy out to lunch. Showing that you help others get business will encourage others to want to get to know you and be part of your network.
9. Promote yourself and your business
When telling about a success of yours, portray it as a terrific outcome for a customer, your company, or for the community. Show your enthusiasm for your business niche, gratitude that you have had the opportunity to learn so much about your field, and delight at being able to help others.
10. Strike while the memory is fresh
If you promised that you would send a new contact information, do it right away. Set up an appointment to meet new contacts one-on-one in the next few weeks. Then, schedule when you will next touch base.
11. Don't give up too soon
Eventually, you will want to get more involved in a couple of groups you find most promising, participating in projects and taking leadership roles. Over years, you will start to reap the results of having developed a network of strong, well-trusted allies. Business connections who will not only refer customers to you, but will help you expand your knowledge, work through challenges, and celebrate successes. Your network will be vibrant resource to help you find reliable employees and experts in a variety of fields.
When the time comes to sell your business, you will find that connections in the local community can help – you might find even find a buyer among your network.
If you live in the Richmond, Virginia area and would like to discuss ways to promote your business through networking, contact us.