Networking is an incredibly important aspect of just about every business game these days. It’s no longer enough to stay local and to be yourself – you’ve got to make networking an integral part of your marketing strategy. This means jumping on every opportunity to connect with people through the Internet and in real life.
But how do you maximize these opportunities? Here are some common networking opportunities, and how you can capitalize on them. Be ready to pounce whenever the chance comes up!
These days, businesses can network and connect with their communities and other businesses through social media. Creating accounts on the major platforms – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – is just the start. You have to get out there and be social! Often times, the only way to find networking opportunities is to make them yourself!
It’s not as hard as it sounds, though it will take some work. In order to maximize every opportunity, you should have a regular posting schedule, interact with both current and potential customers, and like and retweet all the nice things they have to say about you. Be friendly, helpful, and above all, be smart! If a joke, picture, or message seems iffy, just don’t Tweet it out.
By using social media, you create relationships with your customers, ones that last and can have them passing along your information to others in their social group. It’s also a great way to respond in real time to questions and comments. Don’t let someone’s message pass you by – make it an opportunity to show your business acumen!
Professional Networking Events
Networking events are a great way to feel out other businesses, meet people in the industry face-to-face, and hand out information to prospective customers or partners. Trade shows are one common but excellent kind, and you might not think of it as a “networking” event, but it most definitely is! Always have info ready to hand out, including business cards, informative pamphlets, and swag like pens or mugs.
Trade shows are just a start. Sometimes, you’ll have to go where the people are, which might take you to a professional networking event out of your immediate area. But these are great learning opportunities, too, and you can talk with others in the industry about upcoming trends, changing market segments, and new technologies or platforms. Take every opportunity to mingle, get the word out, and learn as much as you can. It’s great for business!
Personal Networking Events
Personal networking events are awesome! They might not be specific to your business, but they’re still low-cost ways of ingratiating yourself to a community of peers or potential clients. These events let you develop face-to-face connections, learn strategies, and develop cool, often unexpected partnerships.
How do you maximize these opportunities? Other than the obvious ones (have a great business card!), take the time to think about your upcoming social interactions. Have a pitch ready for prospective questions, be prepared to offer a concise yet thorough description of yourself and your business, and ask questions yourself. Develop a strong handshake. Polish your shoes. Make a great impression, because you never know where these events will lead!
If you’ve skipped to the bottom, don’t worry, I can sum up what’s been said: be ready! Think everything through before plunging into the seemingly scary world of networking, and do it all with a friendly professionalism. You can’t predict the future, but you can be prepared for it!