Small Business: How To Network
Small Business: How To Network
Networking is a great way of getting your business off the ground and helping it to grow once established. Setting up small businesses expert Vera Hughes is here to share her best networking tips.
Step 1: Where to start
There is a whole range of places to start networking. You could consider joining breakfast meetings, your local Chamber of Commerce, or local business clubs. Find out their contact details from your local library or the internet
Step 2: Prepare
As with any business meeting, preparation always pays off.
Dress appropriately, for example, if you are opening a fashion boutique wear the clothes you sell. Pay attention to your feet - your shoes say a lot about you.
Assemble your marketing material: have enough fliers and business cards handy. Put your cards in a pocket or somewhere else easily accessible. Delving into the depths of your handbag or briefcase doesn't look business like.
Set yourself targets: Write down the names of people you really want to contact, perhaps a potential customer, or client. Remember the name of the Chairman or President, he or she may be a useful contact in the future.
Step 3: Make Contact
Arrive about ten minutes before the meeting. If you arrive too early you'll be in the way of people setting up, but it's not good business practice to be late.
If you're nervous, pause outside and take a deep breath. Place your hands flat on your ribs, finger tips touching and elbows pointed outwards. If you are really breathing deeply, you will see the finger tips part. This helps lower the blood pressure and calms you down.
Walk tall and walk in as though you mean it - don't skulk in the doorway. Look for the person who has the list of attendees and is handing out badges. Pin your badge on your lapel or where people can see it.
Seek out the organiser and introduce yourself as a newcomer. Groups like to have new members. They will probably make you very welcome and introduce you to someone who will show you the ropes.
Step 4: Circulate
If you're not introduced to anyone, approach a pair, or someone on their own. Don't barge in on a group or a couple very deep in conversation.
Smile and introduce yourself, saying your name very clearly. Shake hands and read the other person's label.
If the other person starts talking, fine, if not, ask 'How's business?' and that will soon get them going.
Listen and respond. You should then be able to start talking about your own exciting new business.
Step 5: Repeat the process
Keep circulating. Don't stay too long with one person unless you think you have a really good lead. If it's a breakfast meeting or a meeting with a speaker, try to sit next to somebody different
Hand out your business card and other marketing material as appropriate.
Collect other people's cards - it could be the beginning of your client database. Write down on the card where and when you met the person, otherwise you'll forget.
If you have the opportunity to stand up and market your company, please see VideoJug's 'How to make a five minute presentation'.
Step 6: Follow up
If you have managed to make good contacts, say a supplier or a potential client, make contact with them by phone or email within 48 hours
Review the meeting. Did you achieve your target? If not, why not. Was it the wrong meeting? Did you stay too long with one person? Did you talk too little or too much?
If you did achieve your targets, identify what you did right, and try your best to repeat it next time.