By Dave Sunter, Business Development Manager at Stonebridge Offices
Networking. It’s the necessary evil we all love to hate. The thing is, whilst it may be the elephant in the room, it remains one of the most effective ways to take your business to the next level. In business people matter, so building relationships is key – put in thegroundwork and they will help you through the good and the bad times.
So, how can you overcome the networking dread, make it worthwhile and maximise networking opportunities? Well, it’s simple really, as with any new business approach, the key is to have a plan and to stick to it. Here are my top tips for those that want to make networking an effective business development tactic.
1. Consider your audience – there are thousands of different networking events, from conferences with key note speakers to small meet ups and breakfast briefings… so how do you know which audience to tap into when there’s so much choice? The key is to consider your audience’s audience. You need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and work out where they’ll be networking – that way, you can be sure you’re going to be rubbing shoulders with the right kind of contacts. If it’s a small-scale briefing but you get a couple of solid contacts of the back of it, it’s worthwhile. Sometimes the smaller the networking event the better. Just remember to keep it targeted.
2. Remember the basics – this may be simple, but don’t turn up to a networking event without being prepared. Ensure you have plenty of business cards available, you have some supporting information to hand and you are able to speak with conviction about what you have to offer. First impressions are important and in this instance you’re setting the tone for your business.
3. Get online – networking shouldn’t be reserved to on the ground events. LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent tools to utilise to grow your portfolio of relevant contacts. From engaging with your audience and peers in LinkedIn Groups to discussing industry developments on Twitter – make sure you are tapping into you’re customers both on and off line.
4. Spread the love – it can be really tricky to move around a networking event. Sometimes you can get caught chatting to just one person that won’t be an awful lot of help to your business right now. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to politely let them know you’re going to continue to circulate the room. This is standard practice at a networking event.
5. We’re all in the same boat – some people are people people and breeze into social situations with ease, others aren’t. Either way, everyone at a networking event is in the same position. Don’t feel nervous about approaching people and getting involved in other’s conversations.
6. Follow up – if you’ve made a useful contact, make sure you follow up the lead. Drop them an email, connect on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Make sure you keep the conversation alive by regularly engaging with their content. Even if your services aren’t required just at the moment, you’ll be at the forefront of their mind should they require your support in the future.
7. Don’t over do it – networking events can be fantastic, but they can also be expensive if you choose to go to one every week. Take a couple of months to figure out which events are going to be most relevant to your business and invest your time in these. When these channels are exhausted, simply move onto the next.
8. Make the most of your existing network – everyone already has a network of contacts, from the team on reception at your office, to your friends from school. Keep a keen eye out for opportunities to link up collaborate or simply swap a favour with your existing network – you’ll be surprised how fruitful you existing network can be.
For more top business tips or to enquire about meeting space and flexible office space, visit the Stonebridge Offices blog by visiting: http://stonebridgeoffices.co.uk/