Written by: Peter Minkoff
If you have a good product and a hardworking team, you only need one more thing for success—good networking skills. But businesses of all sizes, especially small ones, connecting with the right people can make the difference between success and bankruptcy. So how do you network if you don’t have a lot of experience?
Create an elevator pitch
First of all, you need to have a short and smooth elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short description of your business, your partners and values you bright to the table. Your pitch should ideally be no longer than 60 seconds, and be very conversational. It will ease a lot of anxiety you might have about speaking with strangers.
Create stylish business cards
Even though we live in a digital world, business cards are still essential for networking, especially when you’re attending conferences, joining local networking events and exhibiting at trade shows. Your business card provides people with contact information, but also puts your brand out there, making it more memorable.
Be a part of business conferences
It’s crucial to provide your business with access to business networking situations, AKA business conferences. These are very practical ways to communicate with entrepreneurs and make new connections with like-minded people.
Follow up with emails
After an event like a business conference, make sure to send emails to promising connections. Remind people who you are, what you talked about and suggest a dinner or coffee—a small business meeting. If you definitely want to stay in touch with this person, a specific invitation will do much more than a generic ‘hope I hear from you’. Send your outreach within a few days of the first meeting to show your dedication. And make sure that your entire team gets business contacts. That’s easy to do with Gmail CRM that provides you with a clear database. In case you need to reach many people, everyone who works in your team will know how to get contacts and create the best follow-up emails.
Exhibit at trade shows
In case your company sells specific products, be proactive about your networking and organize an exhibition at your local trade show. Your brand will reach many customers and potential business partners.
Don’t avoid press outreach
Building a good relationship with your local media is an essential part of networking. These people can really put your business story out there. Stay engaged by reading your city newspaper, watching your local morning news, etc. This habit will also determine which reporters might be interested to do a story for you, helping your business.
Offer your help
Try to avoid coming to networking events with a problem, expecting to find people to solve it. This is what most individuals do, and it’s not a great approach. Instead, ask questions and see how you can offer solutions to others, before they return the favor. Examine your company’s services and your own skills, and see what you can bright to the table for others—they won’t forget you quickly.
Serve your community
Respected and successful business owners are excellent in what they do, but they are also a valued and visible part of the community. To build a good reputation in your community, you can sponsor a local sports team or be a part of a charitable organization or a nonprofit in your area. This way, you will not only help those in need but also engage with a lot of people and promote your brand in the best light possible.
Don’t forget your former connections
When you get contacts through networking events or similar, make sure to develop a good relationship with them. Later in life, they can become important milestones in your business development. Remember that baker you’ve met at a trade fair who said they want to open a one-location bakery years ago? This is a perfect opportunity to maybe add a second location to your bakery franchise, so why not ask that contact whether they are interested to collaborate. Stick to your original contacts and you will find many doors open.
Learn how to beat your nerves
Networking comes naturally to some, while others need to work hard to get over the initial awkwardness. To make a good first impression and break the ice, start your conversation with a compliment. For instance, you can tell a person that you like their heels or watch. Or you can start with a question so they can talk about themselves—people love to do that. Ask about their business beginnings, recent development in the industry and the best equipment for your type of work. Maybe you’ll feel more comfortable with a friend or coworker also interested to grow their network, so attend conferences as partners.
There’s no business without networking. New connections create new business opportunities that can grow your business and allow you to reach your career dreams faster than you thought possible.