How To Make The Most Of Networking
Networking is essential in all parts of life, especially business. It is very important to build relationships with other businesses. Although, as important as this is, it can also be fairly scary, especially if you are naturally introverted.
However, the majority of people will be feeling the same, and once you get in the swing of things and start to make valuable connections with people you will start to see the benefits of getting to know fellow business owners/ professionals.
Networking is traditionally done offline, however online networking groups are becoming more and more common, especially on social media.
Showcase your business
The first step of networking is having the materials to showcase your business, people will want to know what you do and how to contact you. Offline this is generally a business card, these will have everything people will need to know what you do and how to contact you. Online this can take many forms such as a website, your social media accounts, some people even go as far as creating digital business cards which can be used with online and offline networking.
As well as your business information you should also have an ‘elevator pitch’, this is a brief summary of who you are, what you do, who you serve, and what you achieve. This should be short and brief, do not go on, however it needs to be detailed enough that people have a clear understanding of what it is you do.
Target your niche/ market
Although it is handy to make connections from all different industries, you want those connections to be valuable. So, whilst, general networking is handy for targeting markets you may not have necessarily though of or for building working partnerships, you also want to look for opportunities to mix with your chosen audience, especially if you are in a very particular niche.
Ideally you will have a mixture of targeted and general networking, however, only continue with those groups or events where you find value.
Following up is something which is extremely valuable but is very rarely done. Most of the time people will go to events/ participate in these groups and you will collect business cards/ follow each other on social media and then that is that. In most scenarios you will most likely never speak again. However, how many potential opportunities are wasted every day by this practice. This goes for a lot of business practices, not just networking.
It is always worthwhile to reach out and follow up with people, yes it is likely that you will receive a lot of “thank you but no thank you” responses, or worst no response at all. However, that is life, not everyone is your ideal fit. However, is that really worth risking never contacting the one person who says, “actually yes”?.
You will never know if you never try. Try and schedule some time on a regular basis to check in with people you haven’t heard from in a while.
It takes time and consistency
Lastly, networking will take time, think of it like any relationship it is not going to turn into something spectacular overnight. Relationships take a while to build and develop, so you are most likely going to need to give an event or group a good go before you can determine the value.
As with everything, you get what you put in. So, if after your first attempt of networking you feel a bit deflated and “that was a waste of time”, keep at it. Unless the experience made you very uncomfortable and/ or it was detrimental to your health, give it another go. Maybe next time it will be better!