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Networking plays a critical role in building a successful business or career, particularly for small businesses and entrepreneurs. By connecting with others in your industry or related fields, you can gain valuable insights, advice, and potential business opportunities that can help you thrive and grow your business.
Through networking, you can expand your professional circle, build relationships, and establish a reputation for both yourself and your business. It also helps you create a community of peers and mentors who can provide support and guidance, as well as introduce you to potential clients or partners.
In addition, networking provides access to new ideas, trends, and innovations in your field. Attending industry events, conferences, or meetups exposes you to fresh perspectives and opportunities, which can keep you ahead of the curve and position your business for growth. Ultimately, networking is an essential tool for any small business or entrepreneur looking to succeed and thrive in their industry. Keep reading below to find out some tried and true mega networking tips for small businesses.
Pre-networking preparation is essential for anyone looking to build lasting connections through networking. By preparing before the event, you can maximise your chances of making valuable connections and achieving your networking goals - whatever they may be. It’s just like getting ready for the footy season with pre-season!
Take a look at these pre-networking preparation steps to help you get started with your prep plans:
- Researching the event or attendees for maximum impact
- Researching the industry to ensure you have a clear understanding of what to expect and how to make the most of the opportunity
- Crafting an elevator pitch that highlights your unique value proposition and communicates who you are and what you do
- Setting clear goals for what you hope to achieve
- Dressing appropriately and bringing business cards or other materials that can help you to make a lasting impression
Approaching and initiating conversations with other small business owners can be daunting, especially if you're attending a networking event for the first time. You're most likely one of many in the first-time boat too. However, there are several strategies you can use to make the process more comfortable.
Here are some pro extrovert tips that even the shyest introvert can use for establishing rapport and building trust with your fellow small business owners and entrepreneurs:
- First, identify common ground with the person you want to talk to. This can be anything from a shared interest or hobby to a common business challenge. Maybe you both used to play sports in the same league when you were kids? Maybe your kids go to the same school or maybe you have friends in common? You can leverage these connections to get the conversation started.
- It's also important to approach the conversation with a genuine interest in the other person and their business. Instead of being pushy - which can be a real turn-off - ask them plenty of questions about themselves. It’s a known fact that people love to talk about themselves!
- Focus on building a relationship and establishing common ground, and let the business opportunities arise naturally from there. It should flow nicely like a “swish” through a basketball hoop.
Approaching and initiating conversations with other small business owners requires preparation, social skills, and authenticity. You can make valuable connections and build lasting relationships with others in your industry using these strategies.
Another strategy to make genuine connections is to navigate the conversation to remain flowy and engaging. Again, this can be daunting for first-timers, but we have some great examples to take along with you - we're happy to share!
While showcasing your business, remember to ask open-ended questions that encourage the other person to share more about themselves and their business. This helps establish a two-way conversation, makes the interaction more engaging and showcases your active listening skills.
Some examples of open-ended questions to ask include:
- "What inspired you to start your business?"
- "What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in your industry?"
- "What keeps you motivated?"
- "How do you see your business evolving in the next 5-10 years?"
- "What customer acquisition strategies have been the most effective for you?"
- "How do you balance the demands of running a small business with your personal life and other commitments?"
- "What advice would you give to someone just starting in the industry, based on your own experiences and lessons you have learned?"
Timely follow-up is a critical aspect of successful networking, as it helps solidify your connections and move them forward. By reaching out promptly after a networking event, you can demonstrate your interest in the other person and their business and build on the rapport you established during your initial conversation. This can also keep you top-of-mind for future opportunities or collaborations, resulting in fantastic benefits for both businesses.
Some effective follow-up methods include:
Email is a quick and easy way to follow up after a networking event. You can use it to thank the person for their time and interest and to reiterate any key points or topics you discussed. Be sure to personalise your message and reference any details from your conversation to demonstrate that you were paying attention and are genuinely interested in staying in touch. Remember to mention that hilarious joke they told too.
LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool and can be a great way to connect with people you've met at events. You can send a personalised connection request and a brief message that reminds the person of your conversation and expresses your interest in staying in touch. You can also use LinkedIn to share relevant content or industry news, which can help to maintain your relationship and position yourself as a thought leader.
For those strapped for time, LinkedIn is a great way to stay in touch by simply tagging connections in relevant content - it keeps your name front of mind and with minimal effort to boot. Something a lot of us get away with when keeping in touch with family members!
A phone call can be a more personal and direct way to follow up with someone, especially if you had a particularly positive or memorable conversation at the event. You can use the call to thank the person for their time, discuss potential opportunities or collaborations, or touch base and keep the relationship going.
A handwritten note is a more traditional but effective way to follow up with someone after a networking event. It shows that you took the time to craft a thoughtful message and can leave a lasting impression on the recipient. Don't worry; if you keep it strictly business-related, they won't think it's a love letter!
Making the Most of Networking Events
Attending industry-specific events or joining local business groups can be a great way to network with like-minded professionals and build your network.
Here are some tips for maximising your time and resources at these types of events:
Research the event or group:
Before attending an industry-specific event or joining a local business group, research to ensure it aligns with your interests and goals. Check the event or group's website, social media accounts, and relevant reviews or feedback from previous attendees.
Regularly attending events or meetings can help you build deeper relationships with other members and stay up-to-date on industry news and trends. Set a goal to participate in several events or meetings per month or quarter.
Volunteer or take a leadership role:
Volunteering for an event or taking a leadership role in a local business group can help you stand out and build stronger relationships with other members. Look for opportunities to get involved, such as joining a committee, organising an event, or offering to speak or present on a topic of interest.
Before attending an event or meeting, prepare your elevator pitch, bring business cards, and have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. This can help you make the most of your time and be more effective in your networking efforts.
After attending an event or meeting, follow up with the people you met. There are no secret rules about how long you must wait to follow up - it wasn't a date! Send personalised follow-up messages or connect on LinkedIn to keep the conversation going and stay top-of-mind.
Promotional Products for Networking
Promotional products are a great way to showcase your brand and business offerings. Customising promotional merchandise can create a lasting impression with your customers and prospects.
Customising promotional products with your company logo and branding can be a cost-effective way to create brand awareness. Using practical items that people use every day, you can distribute these products at trade shows, conferences, networking events and more. Some products, such as tote bags, are also an effective eco-friendly way to promote your brand.
Here are some popular promotional products that can be customised to reflect your brand:
- Branded Beanies
- Custom Bucket Hats
- Printed Tote Bags
- Customised Socks
- Branded Tech Accessories
- and more!
Customising promotional products with your company branding can create a lasting impression with your customers and prospects.
These products can help increase brand awareness, foster loyalty, and drive sales for your business. Consider the audience you want to reach and the message you want to convey, and choose promotional products that align with your brand and business offerings.
Leveraging Your Network
Leveraging your network is a great place to start if you're looking for ways to develop, expand and advance your small business.
You can leverage your network by offering referrals to brands you know and trust and partnering and collaborating with like-minded businesses. Not only does this help you tap into new audiences and gain access to shared resources, but you can also create a stronger presence within the industry.
Remember to leverage your network is to build meaningful relationships and work collaboratively to grow your small business into a flourishing work of art!
Networking is a great way to promote your business and build your brand. By developing strong relationships with others in your industry, you can gain credibility and visibility, which can help you to attract new customers, partners, and investors - something we believe every brand needs to become renowned within their industry.
Overall, mastering the art of networking is essential for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to build lasting connections and succeed in their industry. By following the tips and tricks outlined in this blog post and applying key networking strategies to your small business plan, you can improve your networking skills and take your business to the next level.
At Cheeta, we love expanding our network and helping our clients succeed in their field of business and sport. If you want to start building your business connections right now - get in touch and connect with us, we’d love to hear from you!