Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ideas to Grow - 10 Tips for Networking

When you are a "one of kind" business to have to get out .... to let the world know you are there.

There is no other national brand that does all that we do ....logo'd apparel, signs, promo pdcts, print services under one roof.

So, if were to wait for my customers to find me .... as a solution to their needs it might be a very long wait.

So, I like many business owners need to "get outside the four walls of my business" to tell my story.

Networking is one of the ways to do that .... and this article has some good tips for doing that successfully.

10 Tips for Effective Business Networking

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The least expensive yet most effective marketing method for building your business is networking. This is especially true if you do business locally.
Many business owners say they don’t like networking or say it’s not effective marketing. Usually, this is because they are unfamiliar with networking or their results timing expectations are unrealistic.
Even with reservations about the success of networking, most business owners will gain value from networking by following a few guidelines.
Following are 10 tips for ensuring networking success.

Image Credit: Alexander Osterwalder
1.  Choosing Networking Groups – Not all groups of people are the right fit. Choosing groups with the same interests or groups that are potential clients is best. There are many potential groups to choose from, such as: women’s and men’s organizations, various associations, Chambers of Commerce, area MeetUp.com groups, and special interest groups, to name a few.
2.  Relationship Development – Developing relationships by networking is not selling, but can lead to sales and referrals. Networking is about getting to know people and building a relationship.
Hoping to get a client and making a sale after one visit with a networking group is not likely. It takes time to build up trust before entering a business relationship. Always approach networking without new business expectations; going on the idea of meeting new people or building the relationship with those you already know.
Career coach, Seth Kaufman has this to say about developing relationships:
“The best ways to build solid business relationships are to be of service to others and honoring your commitments. Getting a relationship off on the right foot starts with asking, ‘How can I help you?’ Nothing breeds trust and goodwill like authentically being of service to others. Once you’ve made a commitment, don’t go back on your word. Whether it’s a meeting or a do by date, last minute cancellations or otherwise not following through, are sure ways to breed mistrust and negativity.”
3.  Professional Dress – When dressing professionally, you establish yourself as a successful person. Expensive designer clothing is not necessary, but something dressy is. If you’re not sure how to dress, consider getting advice from an image consultant.
4.  Preparation – Come prepared to any networking meeting. This includes bringing business cards, but only giving to those showing interest in what you do. Another effective tool is printed postcards or brochures. Prepare a short, 10 to 15-second description of what you do.
5.  Ask and Listen – Finding potential customers doesn’t mean continually talking about yourself. Instead, ask about them and their business. Listen to their answers and find things you have in common then bring them out in the conversation.
6.  The Sit Down Meeting – Events usually have a walk-around networking period followed by sit down meetings. Improve existing relationships during the walk-around by talking to people you already know. However, during the sit down portion, stick with people you don’t know. This widens your network, helping you meet potential customers.
7.  Seek Out Loners – Networking events are for attendees to meet others with common interests. People standing by themselves are opportunities for new contacts. Strike up a conversation by asking if you can join them.
8.  Moving on Politely – Don’t let one person take all your time. Gather information, exchange business cards, and move to someone else. Be polite by letting them know it was a pleasure speaking with them.
9.  What You Can Do for Them – Never focus on what someone can do for you, but rather what you can do for them. If someone can use their services, give referrals.
10.  Following Up – After the event, send notes to any good connections, telling them how much you enjoyed meeting them. Never add them to your mailing list without their permission, but you can send information or articles they might find helpful.
With the networking process, take time to develop relationships with those who interest you. Most business owners are looking for connections so invite someone to meet with you so you can get to know them.
This article is an original contribution by Mildred Lawrence.

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