The fact is, nothing beats real world networking.
This is especially true today when all of that posting and blogging and tweeting and sharing can get to be a bit much after a while. And because of that, maybe it’s not surprising that I recently ran across a survey that said that networking is still the most preferred marketing method for most small business owners.
And, if you think about it, that is probably not surprising. Business, as they say, is all about relationships, and relationships still, for the most part, are created face to face. So that’s where good, old-fashioned networking comes in. Whether it is a chamber of commerce mixer or a community event, if you want to get more business, sometimes you need to pull out the ‘ol business cards and head to that meet-and-greet.
What’s that you say, you don’t want to? Sure, we have all been to plenty of these types of events and yes, they can get awkward. But even so, they work; you never know whom you will meet that can help your business or who may share some great new information.
So don’t knock the networking event, not yet. We have come to praise chamber mixer, not bury it. So here are a few tips to make your next mixer a good one:
1. Set a goal: OK, so you have been invited to a networking event. Why go? Aside from chatting up the people with whom you will be attending, see if there are some specific folks you can and do want to meet. Are there panel speakers or company representatives attending that you would like to talk to? Knowing what you want can bring you a little closer to getting what you want.
2. Pretend you are the host: This is one of the best pieces of networking advice I ever received. If you were having a party, how would you act? That’s right – you would be gregarious. You would introduce yourself around. You would try a bit harder. That’s the idea. Pretend you are the host of this event. Most people will not say hello, so be the person who does. Once you get started it becomes fairly easy.
3. Interview them: This is another good technique. People love to talk about themselves. So let them. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Give your time and you will get time back.
4. Give out your business card or contact info at the end of the conversation, not the beginning: It’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation when the first thing you are given is a business card. Remember, you want to create a positive and lasting impression and the best way to do that is to get to know who you are talking to. Talk about the event, ask questions, listen, tell a joke, chat.
Don’t forget that, at its core, networking is about the conversation, not the card.
5. Dress For Success: You are a professional, so look like one.
6. Connect after the event: This is where many people fall down. Don’t wait too long to connect or the connection will fade. Your work isn’t done when the event is, indeed, it is just starting.
Networking not only remains a great tool for growing a business, if you do it right, it is marketing gold.
Today’s tip: Maybe the best book ever on this topic is Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends & Influence People. With 15 million copies sold, it is a classic for a reason.