Networking 101: Your Complete Guide to Master Your Networking Skills
Listen up business owners, have we got a sweet deal for you. You may have heard the term networking, right? If your skills are rusty and you don’t know exactly how to network, this blog post is just for you. As a business owner, if you want to get your name out there, it’s crucial to invest in networking early in your career, as it is a process that takes time. Eventually, this journey produces not only a great reputation for you within your field, but also instills confidence in others regarding your capabilities. The result, to put it simply, is a long list of people who want to collaborate with you.
So, what is networking? In basic terms, it means the ability to expand your personal and business circle for the purpose of meeting people. The reality of networking is that much of it is about building new relationships with clients and colleagues which have the potential to lead to future collaborations and ultimately, boosting your business.
While this might sound like a challenging feat, with a few simple tricks, you’ll be mastering the art like a veteran. Here are some practical tips on how to network, engage with potential customers, partners and promote your business in no time.
01. Make yourself visible
If people don’t know who you are, you can’t start building those important relationships. A good starting point is to build a website. Create an eye-catching, engaging site with fresh content that will drive traffic to your business and generate potential leads. Remember that building your brand online defines who you are, so take your time and think about your color palette, design, and vibe. Having a website will make it easier for people to find you online and most importantly, engage with you.
02. Maintain positive connections
Whether it’s a co-worker, customer, mentor, or someone who’s helped you make valuable connections, these are the contacts whose presence in your life is clearly valuable and should be the first group of people to invest in. Think about who you know on a personal level; through them, you can begin to connect with their acquaintances and finally gain the confidence to approach prospects who are strangers. Once you’ve identified your critical few, make sure to keep regular contact. Invest in networking with these people and have them stay up to date with your plans as well as offer to collaborate.
03. Write a blog
A successful career is based on being unique and standing out. We all bring our own special something into the world and by blogging, you get a wonderful opportunity to write about your passions and share it with a wide range of readers. Sharing your posts on different channels such as LinkedIn or Facebook, gives you exposure and will reach a wider range of followers as well as potential prospects. Discover your own niche market, embrace it and share it with the world.
04. Use social media as a tool
So you’ve created a stunning website and began writing a blog. The next step is to establish a social media presence. Social media has become one of the strongest web-based communication platforms in today’s world. It is very common to build your website and at the same time, maintain a business page on different social media channels. Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, branch out into different platforms that will complement your website. A good starting point would be to create a business page on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just like building your website, think about how you would like to represent yourself on social media. Another great option is to advertise your business on social media groups or forums. Some social media channels have groups which allow people to engage in a collective conversation. Do some research and find groups where you might be able to provide some added value to the conversation, share a recent blog post and interact with potential prospects.
05. Engage and follow-up through Email
Emails are a great way to reach potential leads. Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, there is an element of risk here since you’re essentially approaching strangers who don’t know you with a proposition that may or may not be relevant. Before hitting the ‘send’ button, do some research about your target audience and think about how you would like to represent yourself in your email.
Keep your email short and sweet. If you’re in doubt, You can learn how to avoid common mistakes when writing an email. If a successful connection has been made, make sure to always follow up. This can be done by subscribing that person to your newsletter (with their permission, of course), email them or even a casual phone call.
01. Create a business card
Whether you’re in an important business meeting or grocery shopping, you never know when an opportunity to network might come along. Who knows, it might even happen when sipping on a margarita on your vacation. This is why you should always carry business cards with you. Much like your website and social media profiles, your card defines who you are, so be sure to collaborate with a trustworthy designer who has the same vision as you to elevate your business.
02. Attend networking events
While online networking is awesome, sometimes, all it really takes is a physical conversation to make a meaningful connection. Business conventions, conferences or trade shows are a great way to shake a few hands and mingle around. Aside from the occasional small talk, this will also give you an idea of what’s trending in the market, who your competitors are and how to collaborate with partners. Participating in such opportunities might be costly, so maximize the impact by setting up one-on-one meetings in advance and identify other ways to increase your participation and visibility. Identify your strong point by looking for speaking opportunities, sponsoring a coffee break, or organizing an educational workshop. Remember that unlike social media, you’re meeting actual people so try to think about these bite-size tips:
Dress for the occasion. There’s no second chance for first impressions, so make sure to nail it!
Be yourself. People don’t only look for a job title or a famous award, they want to connect to the person. Be professional and well-mannered, but keep it casual at the same time.
Practice how you introduce yourself and your elevator pitch. Keep it short, friendly and to the point.
03. Partner with others
Whether it’s online or offline, another great way to network is by partnering up. Let’s say you own a dog walking business. Introduce yourself to a local pet salon owner, veterinarian or trainer to offer complementary services. By collaborating with businesses in the same field, you have the opportunity to gain additional clients and get your name out there, through your partners.
In addition to complementary businesses, you should also work with influencers witin your field. For example, you’ve recently opened a new Italian restaurant and have a mouthwatering recipe for eggplant Parmesan. Offer to share secrets from the kitchen in exchange for visibility. You could be a guest on a local morning television show, write a newspaper article or guest write a blog post for an influencer’s blog.
04. Advertise locally
Advertising your business is probably the most straightforward approach for networking and gaining clients. This type of networking is a bit more widespread. However, it gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself to a range of potential partners. Think about an advertisement in a local magazine, posters at a community center or even a radio jingle. You never know who might come across it. Take the time to research the world of advertising and understand what works for your specific industry. Many forms of advertising are free, some require a minor investment while others require a (sometimes large) dedicated budget so plan ahead carefully.
To conclude: Always remember that no matter how you choose to network, stay true to yourself and be patient! Determination is a small step towards success. Be genuine, down to earth and confident.
Feeling motivated? Get started with your very own Wix website today!
By Dana Srebrnik
Community and Social Media Manager