Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Let's talk networking

     Networking puts a friendly face on your business.

     Business networking is an effective way to talk to other business people. It is informal. It is relaxed. And it is effective. 

     You know the drill. Networking groups are held by local chambers of commerce, other businesses, economic development groups, private companies (e.g., BNI), MeetUp groups (Google MeetUp.com to find groups near you), and others. 

     Business people come together, meet each other, exchange information, and provide leads to expand your business reach. It's business social interaction.

     A networking meeting is a lot more than exchanging business cards. Some people attend these meetings to pass out their business cards to everyone. They press their business card into every hand and then they move on to the next person.

     For some, this is networking. Others have a better idea.

     A typical networking meeting lasts an hour or two. During this time, you can target and meet 3 or 4 business people. Introduce yourself and begin a conversation--not about you, but about them.

     Getting the other person to talk about what they do is an easy start. Quite naturally, the conversation will turn to what you do. Landscapers meet chefs. Bakers meet bankers. Jewelers meet gallery owners. 

     These can be valuable contacts for your growing business. You might find another tax professional, a future landlord, a lawyer who specializes in debt collections.

     Perhaps more importantly, a brief, 15 or 20 minute conversation can lead to new customers--not just the person in front of you, but referrals from others they know. In-depth conversations at networking events can have the effect of expanding your own business.

     If you don't know a local networking group, ask around. Or start one of your own--check out that MeetUp.com website. They make it easy to form a group, keep in touch, and schedule events. 

     Networking is a valuable tool that every owner of a small business can use to advantage. Give it a try. After all, what's an hour or two when it can bring you new contacts and customers.

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