Networking is inevitable in any business. As marketing is a very huge and dynamic industry, there will always be collaborations, and partnerships between brands, and engagement with customers, thus the need for networking.
As the name connotes, business networking is defined as a skill that is used to build new business contacts through connecting with other like-minded individuals.
Why is Networking Important?
Networking Opens Opportunities
Venturing out of your comfort zone enables you to explore more opportunities. Partnership with other like-minded companies or individuals who share the same vision and business goals are good results of networking. Not only that, it will open doors for collaborations, sales leads, joint ventures, speaking gigs, or writing opportunities you would have access to.
Networking Builds Your Confidence
Breaking the ice and striking up a conversation with people you don’t know tests your limits. You have to come up with creative ways to start a conversation and sustaining and probing your prospects well enough to know what types of business and tools they are looking for. In doing so, you boost your confidence level, which makes your next networking attempt even easier.
Networking is a Great for Learning
More often than not, networking sessions happen during conferences and industry events. These are great opportunities to update yourself not only from the conference presentations but also from industry people who practice their profession.
You can learn their best practices and find out how they were able to overcome challenges, which might be relevant to where you are in the business cycle. You can always learn something new in networking.
Listen to the recent Marketing Nerds episode by Debbie Miller of Social Hospitality, Amanda Russell of Ghergich & Co., and SEJ Executive Editor Kelsey Jones as they discuss experiences with networking and how to meet new people.
How Should You Network?
Be the Best Representative of Your Company
First and foremost, know that networking is often a face-to-face interaction and it may be the first impression people have of our brand. You should always keep your company’s best interest in mind. After all, we personify our companies. We are the human representations of what it does and what it offers.
After a huge conference or event, you might remember the company name or the brand, instead of the name of the person you spoke with. So come prepared, dress well, and carry yourself with confidence.
Keep the Right Mindset
What is your true motivation for networking? Whatever it is, the people you speak with will be able to tell. If your main goal is to make a sale, it is not conducive to building a real relationship. You will come across as spammy and insincere.
Show genuine interest in your potential business partner – pay attention to what they say, what they need, and what they do best. If you have a hard time coming up with a conversation starter, ask them about their company, and what their role is. Most people like to talk about themselves. So, ask open-ended questions to start conversations. More importantly, listen to what they say. Focus on them. Great networkers are those who listen more and talk less.
Go into a conversation with the goal of establishing a long-term partnership, and not just making a quick sale. Lasting relationships are mutually beneficial partnerships.
Some successful networkers even go as far as doing research work before networking. If they know that the person they want to meet is interested in golf, for example, they would invite them and play a round of golf. Or if they are interested in having drinks, they’d invite them to have drinks after the event.
If you meet someone who has business needs your company can solve, follow-up immediately. Don’t wait to send feelers four weeks after. They might not remember you at all. Best to send an email immediately upon return to office the next day. Just remember to be personable and focus on how you can help, not what you have to sell.
Tools for Business Networking
Business cards will be your main weapon in increasing your business network. In fact, 55% of Americans who own a small business typically distribute business cards at conferences. When you attend a conference with thousands of attendees, be sure to bring at least two packs of your business cards to give away. This is a valuable tool for your networking success. When receiving a card, do not just simply put it in your pocket. Take a moment to read what is written on the card. Not only will it enable you to ask smart and valuable questions, but it also shows respect to your potential lead.
One other tool you can take advantage of is Camcard. It is a business card app that allows you to scan, manage, sync and exchange business cards all in one place. You can quickly enter business cards, or exchange business cards digitally. One good thing about this tool is you can access your business contacts anywhere.
Create a LinkedIn profile if you still do not have one. If you have an existing LinkedIn profile already, make sure it is updated with your newest job title, most recent published works, and newest collaborations.
After a conference, most business contacts will check out your business card, and look you up on LinkedIn to see your credentials, your background, and all other information about you. LinkedIn is the ultimate social media channel for business professionals, so if you want to be taken seriously, make sure that you have one.
Whenever you are at a business conference, intensify your social media postings on Twitter. Most conferences have a customized hashtag, and attendees use this to post relevant takeaways. Not only will live conference coverage give your followers real-time updates of the conference, but this method proves to be a very effective way of communicating with the speakers, the organizers, and other event attendees, without the awkwardness of face-to-face communication. Take advantage of this channel to join virtual conversations. This might score you an invite to an awesome after-conference party.
You can become successful in business networking by planning and focusing more on other people rather than worrying about what you are going to say. There are many ways to strategically represent yourself, and your company, but these basic tips and tools will help you gain business contacts, and hopefully close deals.