Tactical Networking Tips
Getting ahead in business is often about who you know, and that knowledge can be a powerful tool in your business. Networking events are great to make new business connections that you can eventually turn into leads and customers. New and aspiring business owners need to network to gather as much information about prospects, competitors and the industries they are targeting in order to make strategic decisions that lead to success.
The simple truth is that business is about people. Any business, whether it’s a startup or an industry titan, starts with an idea and only gets off the ground through connections with other people. Whether you are looking for customers, help or information, it’s much easier to achieve success when you start connecting to other people.
Trade shows and industry conventions or events are the most common networking opportunity for tracking down potential business partners, investors or sales leads. But networking shouldn’t be isolated to a single industry’s silo. Networking events designed specifically for business owners provide a unique forum to meet other entrepreneurs and recognize peers from different industries. These types of meet-ups provide a chance for budding entrepreneurs to learn about running a business firsthand from established professionals.
However, networking is only effective if you are tactical about it.
Have a Plan
Most event websites have a list of the speakers or exhibitors attending, and general attendees will often post on social media about their plans to attend. Do some research before the event to identify potential leads or connections. Work on your elevator speech so you’re ready to deliver it when you do meet other people. If you don’t know who is going to attend, at least have a goal in mind. Having priorities will help you execute at a networking event, and help you recognize that even the smallest connection may lead to big rewards.
Take Advantage of Social Media
Lots of networking connections happen virtually these days. Connect with industry contacts, customers, suppliers and other important figures through social media via platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. These connections can help encourage positive word-of-mouth, boost your professional reputation, and create positive reviews—all great strategies for gaining new business. Networking through social media content can help your cause as well. By producing, commenting on and engaging with relevant industry content, you demonstrate your knowledge and professionalism and build trust among your followers. This type of engagement also generates inbound networking, meaning contacts that will find and reach out to you, so you’ll spend less time actively encouraging more connections.
Always Follow Up
While you may make a great impression on someone you have just met, that connection might as well have never happened if you don’t follow up. Send a short email or LinkedIn mail recapping what you talked about at the event, and invite your new connection to continue the conversation. The same rules apply to online networking platforms like webinars or Reddit AMA sessions. If you notice that some participants offered particularly helpful advice, it’s a good idea to reach out to them afterward and praise them for their insights. A simple compliment can lead to greater engagement and continuing partnerships.