4 Tips To Crush It At Networking In 2019
You’ve got big goals for your new business for 2019. Expanding your offerings, growing your client base, and improving your bottom line are all high on your list. But there’s one thing that has to be a priority this year and every year to help your business grow: Networking.
If you’re looking to step up your networking game this year, you may wonder where to start. Here are 4 tips to crush the networking game in 2019:
1. Dial in the Events
Networking events are great for making connections within the business community, and may even end in more business leads. While sticking a name tag on your shirt and shaking hands may seem outdated, in-person networking events and industry conferences are still some of the best ways to make more connections.
Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or small business incubator to get a list of local networking events. There also are lots of places online to find these listings, such as Facebook Events and Meetup.
Once you’ve got an idea of how many networking events are available in your area, plan to attend anywhere from 1 to 3 meetings per month, depending on your schedule and the costs associated with the events. If a meeting’s description looks as if it may be worth your time, but it costs a bundle, sees if there are other free or lower cost meetings you could attend that month instead.
Just be careful not to overload your calendar. You’re already busy enough as it is running and growing your business; you don’t need to add a ton of stress to yourself trying to make it to networking events every few days.
Find a balance that’s right for your schedule and your business goals, and stick with it. Even when times are busy or your business is growing, don’t leave networking on the back-burner. Relationships need to be cultivated, and suddenly dropping off the local business networking map won’t help you reach your goals.
2. Get Prepped
Don’t go into a networking event unprepared. We repeat: Do not go into a networking event unprepared.
Whether your preparation is just checking that you’ve got enough business cards in your pocket or it’s reading up on the organization hosting the event, you need to do a little bit of background work before you attend any event.
Not taking the time to prepare could mean you’ve just wasted two hours of your day in an event that never really held any potential to help you reach your goals. Perhaps the event is for business owners in certain industries, or it is a business meeting instead of a time for networking.
If it’s your first time attending an event, look at the website of the organization sponsoring it. What sorts of things do they say they do for small business owners? What pictures and recaps of past meetings and events do they have? Who are the group’s leaders and the event’s organizers? These pieces of information not only help you go into the meeting with better expectations of how your time can benefit your business, but they also help you learn how you can contribute to the group and event.
For an event you’ve attended before, a quick review of the agenda and a check to make sure you’ve got extra business cards handy is usually sufficient.
3. Check Your Image
We know you’re going to check the social media profiles of everyone you meet at your next event, so wouldn’t it stand to reason that everyone who meets you will check your profiles?
If you’ve got things publicly available on your social media profiles, even from years ago, that could cause problems in your new business-owning life, it’s best to check before you ever step foot in a networking event. Hide old posts, delete pictures that could be problematic, and make sure that your profiles clearly state your business contact information.
Just be careful not to strip your profiles of any sort of personality. Something that’s too carefully curated can be a turn-off for some people.
Keep in the quirky bits (Love cats? Have you seen every episode of “Parks & Rec?” Are you into running?), but get rid of overtly political, religious, or otherwise controversial items for public viewing. These sorts of things are better left to your personal friend’s list.
4. Don’t Forget to Follow up
The saying, “The fortune’s in the follow-up” is still true today. While it may have been meant mostly for sales, it can be applied to networking, as well.
If you met someone at an event with whom you had a great discussion, and you got that person’s business card, it would be a shame to not continue the conversation via email or phone between now and the next event. It’s the time in between official networking events and meetings, not the time spent at the events themselves, that matters toward developing new business contacts.
When reaching out to people whose business cards you collected at an event, there are some important rules to follow:
a. Don’t follow up with everyone. That guy you shook hands with and had a very brief, cursory conversation with? Probably don’t need to send him an email saying how great it was to meet him. Wait and see if you run into one another at future events where you can talk more in-depth before reaching out.
b. Take care when adding to your social networks. Many people put their LinkedIn profiles or Twitter handles on their business cards, but just be wary of adding people too soon after a meeting, or adding too many people at once. This blast of connection requests can be perceived negatively, and may backfire. Instead, start only by adding anyone you’ve decided to follow up with post-meeting, and only after you’ve heard back from them. There will be plenty of opportunities to make more connections down the road.
c. Don’t pitch with your follow-up. If you think that sending a quick email to everyone you met at a networking event is a great opportunity to promote your new business plan, push pause. Focus on building a connection with someone on a genuine level first. If they’re in need of what you do or sell at some time in the future, you’ll be first in their mind if you’ve already brokered a friendship.
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