We all know that networking is a powerful form of marketing. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, it’s the most important thing you can do for your fledgling business. If you run a company, you need to make connections with the right people. You need to shmooze prospective clients, intrigue them, and convince them to give you a call.
Or perhaps you need to meet potential investors and mentors. Whatever your business goals, there’s no substitute for getting out and meeting those in the industry. You never know who will open the next door for you, and commission your next project. When it comes to startup wisdom, networking is top of the list.
Having said that, we understand that networking doesn’t always come easy. In fact, it’s downright terrifying for many. Where do you start, and what do you say? It’s easy to overplay it in your head, and it’s vital to remember that it’s nothing more than a conversation. Take a deep breathe, and we’ll walk you through it.
Do it on your own terms – host an event!
Many of us feel intimidated when walking into a room full of industry professionals. It can be difficult to know where to start, or how to introduce yourself. However, you can flip the tables by hosting your own event! That way, you’re automatically the centre of attention, without feeling uncomfortable. There’s always a conversation starter, and you’ll can float around between groups. Talk to the experts at Envisage Promotions to find out more about hosting a networking event yourself.
Think quality, not quantity
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of potential people and contacts to meet. However, you don’t need to meet everyone. Instead, focus on creating a small group of close contacts. Focus your efforts on creating strong relationships with a few choice people. This is a much better tactic than collecting hundreds of business cards. You’ll only get value from the meaningful relationships, so make that your priority.
Target the right people
As we mentioned above, it’s best to focus on quality relationships, and you simply can’t do that with everyone. That’s why it’s best to target your networking efforts. Seek out the best people to take your business forward. Actively target the individuals that can help your company succeed. Make a ‘hit-list’ of the best industry professionals, and start to connect with them. You can begin this online with a friendly tweet or comment on their blog. Build the relationship organically.
Find a personal connection
It’s not always easy to connect with people in an instant, especially at busy networking events. You need to find a way to make a memorable impression, and create the start of a relationship. One trick that works well is ditching the work chatter. Everyone’s busy talking about work and techniques, so break the mold. Find out what they’re passionate about. Find a topic of mutual interest that you can bond over. Business can come later, create that initial spark with shared interests.
Find a way to help them
Another big mistake that many people make is asking for help up front. It’s rarely a good idea to ask for something out of the blue. Instead, try to find a way you can help them out first. Again, it’s worth starting this process online. Check their Twitter or LinkedIn profile to see if they’ve posed a question or query online. Think of a way your business can help theirs, and offer an introductory offer. By giving something to them first, they’ll remember the gesture if and when you ask them for something in return.
A lot of people feel intimidated when walking into a conference or networking events. There are always existing cliques and groups that are chatting away. It’s difficult to break into those established circles. The best piece of advice here is to chat to people one-on-one. Start a conversation with someone at the bar, or look to greet someone who is also alone. You can then ask for further introductions, and there’s less pressure than a group situation. It’s the personal relationships that will help you in the future, so focus on them.
Always follow up
Finally, don’t forget to follow up. No matter who you meet, the contact is worthless unless you drop them an email the next day. Try to tap into any mutual interests again; send them a link to a related video or useful article. Then try to set up another meeting in the near future!
Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary. Follow our advice, and you’ll have a smartphone full of new contacts.