5 Networking Tips for Small Business Owners
In an increasingly digital world, the value of face-to-face conversation among small businesses and their clients or prospects cannot be understated. According to the Harvard Business Review, 95 percent of subscribers said that in-person meetings are key to successful long-term relationships. Further, 89 percent agreed that face-to-face meetings are essential for "sealing the deal."
Here are five tips to make the most of your real-life networking opportunities:
1. Identify your professional goals before you go. Are you seeking knowledge and resources, advice, mentorship, customers or an investment? Once your goal is identified, it will be easier to pick networking opportunities and determine how you will approach each interaction to achieve your objectives.
2. Find a group that fits your goals. There are many types of networking events; figure out the forum that works best for your professional objective. Popular formats include “speed” networking, breakfast meetings, roundtable events or association memberships. Consider joining your Chamber of Commerce, or seek out opportunities to attend small business conferences – another great networking setting to connect with other business leaders. It may take some time to find the right fit, so plan to drop in on multiple groups.
3. Bring your networking necessities. When networking in a business-to-business setting, be sure to bring business cards. If you brand yourself to be as memorable as your business, networking peers will be able to connect all the dots when they're given a business card for future reference. Business cards are a necessity; other items worth bringing include a pen and notepad, and a well-rehearsed personal elevator pitch.
4. Prepare (and practice) combining your personal and business elevator pitch into one. Prior to your networking event, craft a 20- to 30-second “commercial” about yourself and your company. Networking is not the place for a hard sell, yet your elevator pitch should succinctly tell your business’ unique value proposition.
5. Speak up and show confidence. Networking events are an open forum to share thought leadership and expertise. Contribute to the conversation by offering ideas, strategies and examples whenever possible. As a business owner, your insight should prove helpful to another attendee. The best exchange of knowledge and connections between professionals comes from a delicate balance of both sharing and listening.
For small businesses, networking provides the building blocks and resources necessary to establish a strong foundation for growth. Whatever it is that you’re able to take away from a networking event, be sure to offer something in return, whether it be expertise, advice, feedback or a referral. The value of networking is bound to come full circle.
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