As a business owner, you can be so busy with other aspects of your business that you may neglect putting in the time to connect with like-minded people. Whether it’s online or in person, networking is an ideal way of expanding your reach, while increasing the likelihood of finding more leads.
In a nutshell, networking allows you to connect with people that you may not have had access to before. So, how do you use it to your advantage? Some of the best connections I’ve made have started with a simple conversation at a trade show, or from an introduction by a mutual connection online. Here are some tips on networking, and how you can use it to benefit your growing business.
Where do you start?
How much of your time do you spend making connections? To build your contact list and increase your potential of finding leads, I recommend talking to business professionals who have an interest in your industry.
Start with your online presence – there’s no better platform for business networking than LinkedIn. Take a look at your contacts and see if a mutual connection can introduce you to a contact that would be a prime candidate for a future client. You can also search on LinkedIn by title, industry, and location, as well as join LinkedIn groups on topics related to your industry. Invest a lot of time on this platform, as it is the most powerful business development platform today.
You can also attend a Board of Trade luncheon and start a conversation with the people sitting at your table. Go to association events, like ones for manufacturers, chartered accountants, or others within your industry, and get to know some of the other people at the event.
Business owners I’ve spoken to have also found that fundraising events, such as galas, casino nights, and golf tournaments have proven to be excellent ways of meeting new and interesting contacts. Not only do these events provide networking opportunities; they can be a lot of fun!
How do you get the best out of your networking?
Many business owners I’ve worked with have some experience with networking, but never seem to find the time to actually do it. For example, set a goal for how many contacts you’d like to make within a six-month period. Before actually going to an event, I recommend taking some time to plan out who you want to meet when you’re there. If possible, you may try to book a meeting prior to the event.
On top of this, you’ll need to dedicate time to networking. Take some specific time off from your other duties for business development, and commit to that time. Many business owners take about an hour every morning, before most staff arrives at the office, to conduct their networking online, or to attend breakfast networking events.
When you start to write a plan, outline the goals for attending a certain amount of events per month (3 is an ideal number). Connect with a certain number of connections each month, and make sure that you have an elevator pitch ready for any new contacts you make.
Once you have a plan in place, ask yourself if there’s any collateral you’d like to hand out to your new connections. These can be business cards, brochures– anything that validates your business’ unique value to your potential clients. Make sure that your website is also up to date, as many potential clients will want to see it. Displaying your company’s benefits will help everyone you meet understand your precise messaging and what you offer.
Since it can take some time getting a connection to qualify as a client, I recommend speaking to as many business people as possible. For example, if you make 25 connections during one event, you may book meetings with 5 of them. Even if you don’t turn leads into clients, you will still have the foundations of establishing a new list of contacts for your business.
I’ve found that networking can offer business owners a unique opportunity in helping them expand their business reach and growth. If you’re looking to join a board with like-minded business owners, contact me today to join one of our TAB boards.