Networking is how I built my business. Networking got me to where I am today (along with A LOT of hard work). Networking taught me the right way to do business, how to speak about my business, and how I wanted to show up.
I started my business when I was 25 years old. I had no idea what I was doing and when I walked into my very first networking event packed with professional business women, I was so nervous and scared! Joining networking groups helped me grow up as a business owner and grow my business. It has also yielded some of the strongest relationships I still have today. But there are things you need to know and understand to be successful at networking — and there are definitely wrong ways to network.
Here are six tips I have learned over the years that have helped me maximize my networking results and my marketing at networking events:
Networking Tip 1: Networking is NOT about selling yourself, your programs, or your services
Networking is NOT about you and what you’re going to get out if, it’s about starting conversations and building relationships. Those who go to a networking event with the goal to land 3 new clients, make 5 new sales, or give out at least 25 business cards don’t get it — and I am sure you can feel the selfishness of those people when you meet them. Networking is about starting conversations, asking questions, listening, getting to know people, and starting or building relationships.
Networking Tip 2: “I can’t afford live events” is an excuse
Live events are critical to your business growth and your growth as a business owner, and everyone can afford to go to live events. Claiming that you can’t afford to go to live events is just an excuse. It’s a glimpse into where your priorities are focused. I regularly witness business owners complain about not being able to afford to attend events that are priced around $75-$125 … That blows me away! Most of those same people spend the same amount on eating out in one week, double that on impulse purchased at Target, or triple that on Starbucks coffee in one month. In reality you can afford to go to the event, it just isn’t a priority.
Networking Tip 3: Local networking events yield a few ideal clients. The right live event can yield hundreds
Attending local networking events is one of the ways I built Bourn Creative from $0 to what it is today. Local networking events helped me gain confidence speaking about my business, helped me meet some of the most amazing business owners, and put me in touch with clients that I still have today. I am a big fan of networking in your local community — but at the same time, I like to get the most bang for my buck/effort/time, so I choose to also attend large conferences. You see, a local networking event may put you in touch with a couple ideal clients, but the right conference will surround you with hundreds of ideal clients.
Networking Tip 4: People will size you up before speaking to you. Show up the way you want to be perceived
When you attend a networking event, seminar, workshop, or conference, other attendees will size you up before the ever speak with you. Your appearance, eye contact and body language, business cards, confidence level, and even the way you speak to others send a message to the other attendees. Make sure you show up the way you want to be perceived. If you show up late and disheveled, what does that say about the kind of experience someone may have if they invest with you? If you spend the event complaining, do you really think successful people willow ant to be around you? If you hand someone a business card with your old phone scratched out and your new one written in by hand, what type of message are you sending about your brand?
Networking Tip 5: Get involved at a higher level to make an impact and increase your ROI!
If you really want to become a rockstar in your networking group, get involved! Join the leadership team, join a committee, spearhead a committee, plan an event, donate your products, or volunteer your specialty services or time. The more you get involved, the more impact you will make in the lives and business of others … and the more people will get to know you and your business. You’ll create stronger relationships, you gain more exposure for your brand, you’ll help more people, and you’ll be rewarded 10-fold.
Networking Tip 6: Follow up, follow up, follow up
Networking without follow up is like paying to meet new people and make friends. Now some people may need to invest in going to events to make new friends, but I’ll bet you go to networking events for business — to build relationships with other business owners, to meet new leads, and to meet vendors, businesses, and service providers you can do business with and support. A HUGE part of successful networking is following up with those you meet after the event. Be sure to send them a handwritten “great to meet you” note or follow up email, and always deliver on any promises you made, like connecting them with a resource or expert you know.
What about you? Do you have any additional networking tips? Have you tried one of these strategies and experienced success? If so, I’d love to hear about it below!
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