It is important to understand that where, when and how to network in your local community will be heavily dependent on the type of business and the time you are prepared to commit to it. Too much time networking could see your business suffer, just as not enough time networking could result in very little results.
Here are my five tips for business networking which have certainly contributed to the success that I see from my time.
1) Be a Member of one group: There are hundreds of networking groups to choose from, however being part of one membership based organisation is my business anchor. When my business commitments allow, I will attend non membership based organisations such as coffee mornings, exhibitions and one off events. During the busier times, I will only go to the networking group I am a member of. This allows me to stay networking consistently and to add to this when I am able to. It is very important to continue networking. I have seen many occasions where businesses become too busy to do any networking and then wonder why three months later, they have been forgotten and often have to start again.
2) Network with a plan: Don’t leave your networking to chance. Before you go to an event, research it. How many businesses are attending? Who is attending? Is there an attendee list. What do you want to achieve from the networking. If you know about the attendees beforehand, you can plan who to speak to. This is especially useful with large events such as business exhibitions as you can speak to the people you would like to meet and then mingle afterwards
3) Don’t ignore smaller events: I have met some really good quality contacts at large networking events however I have also met some fantastic contacts at smaller events too. It isn’t always about how many people are in the room. It is about who is in the room. It only takes one good quality connection to do great business.
4) Understand that Networking is about building relationships: In these uncertain times, other businesses will want reassurance that you are a good business with consistency. Attending business networking events regularly is a sign that you value local business relationships and don’t just want to sell to people. Don’t expect to necessarily sell your product or service at the first, second or even third event. Others will want to get to know you and also expect you to show interest in them too.
5) Connect after the event: It is essential to follow up on business connections made. It will strengthen the relationship outside of the event and show that you are serious about building business relationships. It will often be these relationships which will provide you with the new business that will make your networking work. An email or a phone call will show that you take your networking seriously.