If you are a business owner and not networking, you are neglecting to use one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal. Marketing campaigns can involve millions of dollars and take months to complete, but some of the most effective strategies can be as simple and as inexpensive as shaking a hand and engaging someone in conversation. Networking is the act of exchanging information between two parties. In the business world, networking can include attending parties or events, meeting new people and talking about your business at every opportunity. These connections, even if they are made casually over lunch or in line at the grocery store, can be a powerful tool used to leverage new growth and expand your client base. While there is no set of standards or rules entitled “How to Network,” it is beneficial to remember the following when meeting new people:
People are perceptive and can tell, quite easily, when a person is simply after a profit or looking to only benefit themselves. Networking requires speaking with many people, and it is vital to be genuinely interested in the other party. Feigned interest or inattentiveness will be a turn-off and will certainly not benefit your business. Instead, seek out connections with businesses and people who are not directly connected with your warm market. These relationships can lead to referrals–one of the many payoffs of networking. If you have not been networking and do not know where to begin, start small. Stop by a small business luncheon, visit your local chamber of commerce and visit with businesses with which you may be able to partner in the future. Even friends and neighbors can play a role in the success of your business if they are excited about your product and willing to give a word-of-mouth referral. Networking is FREE, so step outside the four walls of your office, shake a few hands and start to build new relationships.