Anyone who knows me, knows my key point about the importance of your network. It is one of the most important tools for business success. It serves as a crucial support system of like-minded clients, peers and investors can be vital to help your business grow and thrive. So, how can you, as a senior leader or business owner get “out there” build a valuable network? Here are my top 5 tips on how to network purposefully.
# 1 Giver’s Gain
An oldie, but still holds true today. Going into networking with a ‘selling’ attitude is a sure-fire way to scare off potential new customers. There’s no need for hard selling – just take an active interest in other people and their business. Seek out opportunities for other people as well as yourself.
A good way to do this is to ask plenty of questions – it is essential to understand a person’s values, qualities, target markets and any possible synergies – so you can both get the most out a networking experience.
If you’re looking for referral business – it works both ways. Understanding a person’s working style is key to matching them with the right potential customer.
If you’re interested in strategic partnerships, membership organisations are a good avenue to pursue. They provide the opportunity to really get to know someone over the longer term, to understand how your skills may complement each other’s businesses to fuel growth.
#2 Find a style of meeting that suits you
For me, this mostly comes down to structured versus un-structured meetings – but it is important to remember that a combination usually gives the best results! (I have a detailed blog post on Growing Your Connections you can read too).
Structured meetings usually have a clear agenda – often with a smaller number of attendees, which can work for people looking to build close and lasting relationships. Larger, more informal meetings may have up to 80 attendees which change every month, making each meeting an exciting new opportunity. (Like for example our Connections Club). This format may work for people looking to contact a large number of decision makers over a short period of time but may feel daunting to networking novices!
Both networking styles complement each other, but keep in mind that the price often determines the calibre of attendees; a high-quality group is more likely to provide a quality pool of connections who are serious about business success.
#3 Do your homework
What I mean here is, do some preparation work BEFORE the networking meeting. Lists of attendees are usually available before the event. Contact the meeting organiser to ask for a copy (if you aren’t naturally provided with one) and do your research through LinkedIn and their company websites. Most networking organisers will be happy to fulfil requests, so if there is a certain person you would like to meet or sit next to, don’t be afraid to request an introduction or a specific seat.
This will help you to maximise your time at the meeting, so make sure you set yourself some clear objectives, for example talk to 5 different people or 2 decision makers from a target sector. This will keep the focus clear and help you to move around the room purposefully.
#4 Shout out about the meeting
Social media is a great tool to promote your business and to get the most out of networking, it’s essential to post about your attendance. Most events have specific hashtags to help build traction – which are also a great way to find people you met at the event online.
Be sure to follow up on your in-person networking conversations on LinkedIn, either straight after the event or within the same week. This will help to strengthen the connection and keep your business offering fresh in their mind.
# 5 Consistency (‘showing up’)
Regular attendance to meetings will help to build affiliations and connections with potential clients and referrers – giving you a regular opportunity to ensure that a room full of people truly understands what you do.
In a membership setting, where people are meeting the same people each month for example, I have seen some incredibly powerful changes for many businesses in terms of growth and investment once that sense of trust is established.
For the more nervous networkers among us, regular attendance is also important to build confidence which can reflect in other aspects of business success. Be brave and ask for referrals – a good testimonial also makes a referrer look good!
My biggest tip (over all of the above) is to ENJOY IT. Meeting fellow businesspeople is a fun and insightful aspect of work to help you learn and grow both personally and professionally.
Getting to know how everyone else is managing in current market conditions does help to bolster a sense of community. We have a very vibrant business community in the UK and particularly in Northamptonshire – make sure you are an active part of it!
If you’re interested in trying out a membership networking group – please do read more about our Connections Club, or contact me to learn more about how you could join. (Call 01933 652 884 or email) I offer a free consultation to chat about your business and what you’re looking to achieve in the coming year – that may be in connection building or in gaining new valuable skills. Book a slot with me here.