Using networking as a sales and marketing tool is the most effective way to promote your product or service. The unfortunate reality is many simply can’t network effectively and often times end up standing around with a group of people they already know and leave an event with no new contacts. The good news is networking is a skill that can be learned.
There are many organizations which can provide excellent networking opportunities for a business. However, the key to attending networking events is planning ahead and maximizing the opportunity.
Before attending an event, it is important to clearly identify the members you would like to get to know better and what you hope to achieve. Members of an organization are usually listed on a member’s directory web-page and many organizations have photos of each member, as well as a brief description, making it easy to get a head start. Although it may prove an interesting evening, if you are an interior decorator just starting out, spending half of your evening with a group of industrial engineers may not prove to be the most productive use of your time. Often times those who don’t feel they accomplish much at networking meetings and struggle to blend in are those who know nothing about the group or its members.
It is much easier to strike up a conversation with someone when you already know a little about what they do and how knowing you may benefit them. To be effective, networking is just as much about giving as it is about taking. In fact, a great networking strategy is to work hard at getting business for others. Other members of the network will reciprocate and you will be well on your way to linking tangible results to your efforts. For this to be accomplished, keep things short and to the point when talking about your business to someone for the first time. A brief description of your business and its highlights is ideal, followed by a short conversation with as much focus on your new acquaintance as possible before moving on to someone else. The key to networking when you are new is getting acquainted with the group and its members.
If you are armed with a business card and an enthusiastic attitude almost any situation can be a potential opportunity to network. Your capacity to connect with others’ interests, wants, and needs is essential to the networking process. And once you’ve met interesting people, don’t forget to follow up and keep in touch with a phone call or an email. After all, networking is all about building business relationships that will last far longer than one event.
Jason Gadbois is a business expert, having spent a decade with Canada's leading Pharmacy retailer, opened two start-up companies himself, and worked for Government as a business consultant helping hundreds of entrepreneurs start-up successful businesses.