If you’re like just about every other business professional these days, sales are down, new business efforts are up and it’s time for you to get out…and start networking. I know what you’re thinking. I hate networking. I’m painfully uncomfortable talking to a bunch of people I don’t know. I don’t know what events to attend …etc. I get it. For most of us networking is as unnatural as a palm tree on the shores of Lake Erie, but the reality of the times is this: You have to start doing something to drive sales and networking, when done right, works.
Networking that builds business is not just circulating through a room exchanging business cards. Networking done right is creating a pool of contacts from which you can draw clients, referrals, resources, ideas, and information. To be successful, your business network can and should contain colleagues, competitors, a wide range of business people, and personal friends, as well as clients and prospects.
Meeting people at organized events is one of the easiest ways to build an extensive business network. The first key to effective networking is choosing the right kind of events to attend. In Northeast Ohio, regardless of what industry you are in, there is no shortage of events to choose from. A good source for learning what events are happening and when, are the event boards of the following web sites: Smart Business Magazine, Cleveland.com, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Cleveland Business Connects and/or Inside Business. Clearly, there’s a lot to choose from, so when considering an event, try to make sure that the people attending are largely potential clients, and other professionals who may be able to refer business to you.
It is important to understand that successful networking does not always yield immediate results. Think of it as planting seeds. It may take some time before you efforts bear fruit. Ultimately if you become known as a powerful resource for others, people will remember to turn to you with not only business referrals, but for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. Networking keeps you visible to them.
Lastly, keep in mind, networking doesn’t end when the event is over. Follow-up and ongoing contact is a key component to successful business development. When you get back from an event, make sure you add any new clients to your contacts database and flag those contacts so that they can receive any future communications from your company (i.e., e-newsletters, e-blasts, holiday cards, etc.) You should also consider forwarding these people relevant articles, events or web sites that you come across that you think may be of interest to them.
The hardest part of networking is getting out the door and to the events. Set a goal for yourself to attend at least one networking function each month and before you know it, the faces in the crowd won’t seem quite so unfamiliar and you’ll be on your way to building your own business network.
Looking for a Cleveland or Akron strategic marketing agency to help you with your networking initiatives? Contact one of our professionals today at 440-449-6800.