Planning your networking
It's a good idea to make networking a regular part of running your business. Plan your networking activities and devote a certain amount of time and money to them. Spending money on networking can be more effective than spending it on advertising, as it is more personal and targeted.
Prioritising your time
Consider all your business activities and work out how much time you can realistically devote to networking. Allocating yourself a certain amount of time will make your networking more enjoyable, as you won't feel rushed.
When you are considering your networking activities, think about what you hope to achieve. Consider who you want to meet and why, and think about what you have to offer. This way you can prioritise events to attend, making your networking more effective.
Talking about your business
Before you go to a networking event, think about what you want to say about your business. Research the people and businesses you'd like to be introduced to and make sure you're prepared when you meet them. Having pre-prepared points can help ease your nerves. You don't need to memorise everything you want to say, but it's a good idea to write down the key points about your business and practise saying them out loud.
Think about what benefits your business offers and what makes it stand out. Decide if you want to entice potential new clients to your business with some kind of special offer, such as a discount or personalised treatment. Ask your colleagues, friends and family for feedback to help you develop your key points.
Keep in mind that while you want to tell people about your business, they will also want to tell you about theirs. Make sure you ask them what they do when you finish speaking.
Have some business cards made that you can give to people when you are talking about your business. Make sure they reflect your business accurately and include all the relevant contact details, including your email and website address. Giving your business cards to people you've connected with and described your business to will have a greater impact than giving them to as many people as possible with limited personal interaction.
It's important to follow up with people soon after you meet them so that you are still fresh in their mind. Make sure you deliver on any promises you make, whether it's a phone call or a special offer. Keep in regular contact with people you meet to build your networks.
Develop a system
Consider creating a database of contacts, including details of where you met them and what they do. Updating the database regularly will help you keep track of your contacts and ensure that you are familiar with developments in their business. This can help you recognise new opportunities and develop your business relationships.
Following up online
If you decide to follow up by adding a new contact to your online network, such as LinkedIn, try to include a personal message that mentions where you met the person and what you talked about.
An email newsletter can help you communicate information about your business to your contacts. If you decide to add new contacts to your mailing list, make sure you are not breaching spam laws.
Learn more about online communication.