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Networking puts a friendly face on you and your business. Networking is an effective way to talk with other business people. It is informal. It is relaxed. And it is an effective promotional tool.
You know the drill. You are invited to meet with a group of people from your community. These sessions are regularly held by local chambers of commerce, other businesses, economic development groups, and others.
Private networking companies such as BNI also hold regular networking meetings. And MeetUp.com might already have a group meeting in your area--if not, form one. Just go to the website and form one of your own. It's free.
At business networking meetings, people come together, exchange information, and provide leads to expand your business reach. It's business social interaction.
A networking meeting, however, can be a lot more than just exchanging business cards. Some people attend these sessions to do only that. They press a business card into every hand and move on to the next person.
There's a better way to do this and it accomplishes more. Target 3 or 4 business people that you want to meet. Spend time with each of them. In 15 minutes with each, you can introduce yourself and begin a conversation--it's about them, not you.
Getting people to talk about what they do is an easy way to start. Later and quite naturally, the conversation will turn to you and what you do. Landscapers meet chefs. Bakers meet bankers. Therapists meet jewelers. And lawyers meet computer experts or shop owners.
The trick is to get yourself and your business firmly implanted in their mind, and vice-versa. Each one of them might call you in the future, and more importantly, they will refer others to you in their daily activities. I know a baker who landed a corporate account through a referral met at a networking meeting.
Of course, you exchange business cards. But the important thing is to have that 15 minute conversation. You are expanding the reach of your business through relationships and referrals. It is a promotional activity.
If you don't know a local networking group, start one of your own. MeetUp.com makes it easy. Form a group, keep in touch, and schedule events.
Networking is one of the most valuable tools you can use. An hour or two spent networking once or twice each month will bring you new contacts, customers, and referrals.
Social media can be viewed as a networking tool. The stuff you post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others can have the effect of spreading the word about you and your business.