5 Tips for Effective Small Biz Networking

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“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…” It’s a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard countless times before. That’s because when it comes to finding new customers, growing your top line, and building your small biz brand, who you know is still one of the most important parts of the equation.

Business networking involves getting to know people and building trust with them. In the age of the Internet this can be accomplished through a variety of mediums: your website, on social media, in online discussion groups, or a simple email exchange.

Yet despite all these new avenues for building connections and growing your community, I still think face-to-face communication at networking events is one of the most effective ways to build a strong and valuable professional network.

If you run a small business and want to learn how to make the most of the next networking event you attend, here are a few simple tips that will be essential to your success:

1. Set a Specific Goal: It’s important to understand what you want to accomplish by attending an event or small biz meetup. Is your goal to meet ten new prospects? Is there a specific person you know will be attending that you’d like to connect with? Do you just want to get out of the office for a bit and recharge the batteries with some like-minded colleagues? Whatever it may be, having a specific goal in mind will help ensure the time you spend at an event is worthwhile and helping add to your success.

2. Be Yourself: Networking events are a place to build relationships. Don’t try to be the person you think others want to meet; you’ll never build genuine rapport that way. Just be yourself. The connections you make when you’re being authentic will always be more valuable and fulfilling than those based on a lie.

3. Go Alone: A room full of strangers can be intimidating for some people. It may be tempting to ask friends to tag along with you to the next networking event – but you really shouldn’t. If you do, more often than not you’ll just end up spending the whole event talking to people you already know, which is completely opposite to the reason you attended in the first place. Instead, make a point of going to events alone. Get out of your comfort zone a bit and find what amazing connections may await you there.

4. Listen and Ask Good Questions: Making a great first impression is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to forging new business relationships. And showing a genuine interest in whoever you’re speaking to and asking them thoughtful questions about themselves and their business is a great way to do that. Listen more than you talk at the next networking event, and when you do ask questions, try keep them open-ended to spur on more engaging conversation and connection-building.

5. Don’t Forget to Follow Up: Remember that fat stack of business cards you collected at the last networking event? They’re not doing you any good just sitting on your desk gathering dust. Networking doesn’t stop once an event is over. Be sure to schedule some time afterwards to diligently follow up with any promising or interesting connections you made. That is the whole point after all.

We hope these tips will help make your next networking event a success! Have any networking tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below.

Also don’t forget that Ken and the Blue Sky team host a free monthly small business networking meetup in Newmarket. It’s a casual environment and a great way to meet some other local like-minded entrepreneurs.

The fun starts at 6 p.m. at Unika Lounge off Main Street Newmarket on the last Wednesday evening of every month. We hope to see you out!