“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters most.”
That old saying is as true as ever today. When you want to get ahead, it helps to know people. So a key skill every small business owner should need to master is how to network – how to get out in the world and make valuable connections and friends.
You can network with a lot of people through social media, but even with all the technological advances, meeting people face-to-face has great power.
Networking can change your small business. A lot of business owners landed their first clients through networking groups, got referral sources & learned more about their market.
Yes, real-world networking takes time, and you — as a small business owner — probably think you don’t have time for such events. But, as hard as it is for you to spare time for networking, it surely will pay off.
Networking is affordable and effective because people like doing business with people they know. So the more people you know — and the more people who know what business you’re in — the more potential customers and referral sources you have.
At networking events, you’ll meet people who can help you build your business by:
- Becoming customers themselves
- Becoming referral sources and sending business your way
- Providing products or services you need
- Helping you learn about your potential market and/or industry
- Partnering with you in some aspect of your business
If you want to make the time you spend networking really pay off, be sure to:
- Practice your pitch. You’ll often be given a short (but sweet!) amount of time to introduce yourself to other members or people will ask you what you do. You need a clear, concise description at the ready.
- Don’t just show up. If you want to get the most customers and referrals, don’t just attend one or two meetings. Come regularly. Join committees. Sign up as a sponsor. Volunteer to help out.
- Come early, especially if you’re a “wallflower.” Early arrivers all start talking to one another before the crowd arrives.
- Follow up. Enter business cards you’ve collected into your database. Send personal emails to people you met. And if anyone wanted to know more, send brochures, set up appointments, or follow up with a phone call.
Although networking takes time and energy, it can be one of the most powerful tools in your small business toolkit. Make sure to utilize it to its fullest potential.
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