The Importance of Networking
As you may know, it takes a lot of work to grow a business. It's easy to get stuck behind the computer working on the administrative duties and work for your clients. One of the most important things when working with clients or customers is building that in-person relationship. By having this, it will humanize your relationship and help build a strong bond cemented with trust. This type of relationship takes time to build and grow and sometimes it's hard to figure out where to start. How do you get these clients to begin with? The best place to plant the seeds of these future relationships occurs while you are out networking.
Networking can be defined as a business activity by which groups of like-minded business people recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. These events can be big or small and happen at all times of day (over breakfast or after work cocktails). Every community has many different events, which would be a great opportunity for you to have some face time with potential clients or customers. To learn when these events are, you can check websites like Meetup or attended local Chamber events. At these events make sure to have a stack of business cards in your pocket, wear a nametag (if possible) and try to introduce yourself to every person there.
How to Network
It's important to ask people you meet what they do and learn how you can help them. Having an authentic conversation is important and make sure to always ask for their business card. If you need to, make a note on their card about who they are and what you spoke about (a lot of people do that). By meeting these new people, you are beginning to build a relationship that may lead to new business. However, this first interaction isn't enough.
Follow up Afterward
After attending any networking event, it's important to follow up with your new contacts. You can email them (a simple "nice to meet you" will do), add them to LinkedIn or other social networks or you can call them. Remember, you want to focus on how you can help them. People do business with people they like, know and trust and you want to be that person. They might not be the right client or customer for you but they have a network of people who might be your target audience. You can continue to build and grow those relationships and watch your business flourish.
Networking is something that needs to be done on a regular basis so find events that are enjoyable and fruitful for you and always make sure to have fun.