This article was written by Robin Noah, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor
I recently had a business owner ask if networking was good for a small business. My answer was a strong YES. Running a successful business is dependent on what you know, who you know and how well you know them in order to enhance your circle of influence. So yes, networking is a process businessperson should engage in. It is a marketing opportunity.
Business people like to associate with other business people, so attend networking events where business people will be in attendance. Networking allows you to meet, and establish a relationship with people who may not have heard of your business through any other means. Successful networking takes skill, planning and commitment.
Plan for your events by defining your goal and the strategy for achieving the goal. “How do you want to be remembered?"
In the beginning the goal may be to meet and present your business to at least 3 persons. Be prepared with the statement that describes your business. Work on developing an elevator speech. You need to prepare others to act as your “promoter”, just as you would do for them.
Consider the following:
- Visit a few groups a few times before you commit to any group. Get to now the rules of operations, what the fees are, if there are any limitations and what is offered to members. You need to be comfortable among the group you choose.
- Be prepared. Learn how to tell your story in a dynamic way. Develop an “elevator speech” or a pitch statement that grabs the attention of your audience. Keep in mind that success in businesses is in solving problems for clients in a fair, efficient and cost effective way. Tell why a client should pick your service/product above others.
- Have your promotion materials with you and lots of business cards. Collect business cards and use them to set up a database for promotional activities or to pass on leads.
- Follow up leads and referrals. Make appointments to meet potential clients.
- Thank the person giving you the referral/lead. Thank them for the opportunity to service their referral and offer to help them in the future as well.
- Measure your success. After each meeting review your goal to see if you met it. If it the easier it gets.
Remember that you know more about your business than other businesspersons at the event. Give a picture of your business and how it resolves clients’ issues in one or two sentences. Just enough to promote the response “tell me more..” That is the time that you go into details. If you do these things you will be remembered as being prepared and professional.