It is very important to get the word out when you start a new business. One way is advertising. A second way to grow your small business, that can be more fun and less expensive, is by attending networking events. The type of networking I am talking about is face to face, in person networking events.
Networking is about making good connections and building new relationships with other business people.
Weekly Group Meetings
One of the most effective types of networking events that you can attend are the ones that are well organized and meet on a weekly basis. These groups typically consist of anywhere from 8 to 30 people. The people who attend these meetings are business individuals, like you, that want to talk about business and socialize. Meeting on a regular basis helps you to quickly get to know other people.
Some groups meet for breakfast or lunch, others meet for dinner and an evening out.
In these groups you will meet fascinating people from many different types of businesses. Businesses that you may never even have thought of. You will learn about their business, and you will have an opportunity to share things about your own business.
Referrals for New Business
When you attend small business networking events try to get to know people that may share the same clientele as you. You might be able to form an alliance with them and refer clients back and forth.
As you get to know other members of your group you may also find that you know people who need the products or services of one of the people in your group and you can pass on referrals for them. For example, there may be a lawyer in your group that specializes in real estate. If you have a friend or relative that is selling their home and will need a lawyer, you could pass on a referral for the lawyer in your group.
In return, as people get to know you better, they will do the same.
Referrals are a great way to grow your small business because people typically trust a business that was referred to them versus a business that they find online or in the phone book.
When I owned my own small business quite a few of my clients were referrals that I received from other members of the networking group that I attended each week.
Keep in mind that each networking group usually has a membership fee. Check out and compare those costs when deciding which group to join.
One of the largest networking organizations is BNI.
BNI is an International Networking Organization with Chapters (groups) meeting all over the world.
Depending on where you live you may also find other local networking organizations that you could join. You can do an online search as well as check your local newspapers.
Dress to Impress
Appropriate dress for most groups is business casual. You want to make a great impression every time you meet with other people. Remember that they are deciding whether they will tell others about you.
Be On Your Game
Greet everyone you speak to with a positive and friendly attitude. If there is an opportunity to walk around and mingle take advantage of it. Ask people questions about their business before you introduce your own.
Networking meetings usually include some sort of presentations.
The Leader of the group may do a presentation and then the members may have an opportunity to stand up and give a quick 30 second infomercial about their business.
Be courteous and do your best to focus on the person speaking. They may be nervous in front of a crowd and if they see that people are not paying attention they may loss their motivation and train of thought.
Exchange Business Cards
Some groups have a set process for exchanging business cards. Others don’t.
If the group you attend does not have a process then a good rule of thumb is to try to meet at least 5 other people and exchange cards. With 5 people you have a better chance of remembering who they were and what they said. If you try to meet everyone in the meeting in one session you may not remember too many.
If you have a genuine interest in the people you met then make sure to follow-up with them the next day.
Send each person a personalized email or phone them. Perhaps you can setup a lunch date to get to know each other better and share business ideas.
Go out and have fun at networking events, and make great connections.