Get smart with your business networking
Growing your business network is key to all business owners and professionals. A solid network can be used as a specialised cache of knowledge and experience, as well as development opportunities. Manchester is brimming with professionals and entrepreneurs who want to meet as many people as possible to grow their network and brand.
But where to start or how to improve I hear you ask?
This should be treated like any opportunity or obstacle that you and your business will face, so make a plan. Firstly, consider how much time you can commit to developing your network. Break this down into your time per week or month, and how this time is likely to be split – is it whole days, or spread across several shorter timeslots on different days?
Now that you know how much or how little time you have to spend you can think about how best to use it.
Who do you want to meet is the key question to ask yourself, and you should consider:
- What sector are they in?
- What is their role? Do you want the owner, manager, department head, local decision maker etc.?
- Where they are likely to spend their networking time?
- Do you have any similar connections already?
Now that you have established how much time you can commit to networking, as well as your ideal networking audience, it’s time to find them, get some names and face time.
Be focussed like a laser, rather than a scatter gun approach
Do NOT take a scatter gun approach. So many people attend every event they can get to or afford (usually the free ones), and then wonder why they rarely make meaningful connections. I would suggest making a two-pronged approach to this, as social media is a huge resource that can be used to your advantage when networking.
Firstly, draw upon your established connections by asking for help and referrals. And secondly, if you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to join as many business groups as you can find, both local and regional, on Facebook or LinkedIn.
It is worth asking for recommendations of networking events of groups that meet your identified audience from both your established network and in the Facebook / LinkedIn business groups. Doing specific research for events to find your target audience, search for sector specific event on the more established networking sites. I would recommend:
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) is a good way to gain access to target sectors along with many other benefits if you have the budget for a membership, and it also boasts the largest membership pool of any UK Chamber which is always a plus! If your budget doesn’t stretch then you can always book individual events with them.
Before the event – preparation is the key
You have booked an event. Yay! Now prepare. Regardless of the format you will need to do some level of preparation. Share on your social media that you are attending and tag the organisers and venue as a minimum. If you know other attendees, then tag them as well. When the post is shared, this will reach a much wider audience.
Open events where you just mingle will require you to know how to describe your business and what makes you passionate about it. This is something surprisingly hard for some and if you can’t do this, it really doesn’t look good at events. Referring to your business plan or mission statement should really help with this.
- Not got a business plan or mission statement? Please get in touch as we can help – and keep an eye out for future blogs.
Some events are closed or round table events where you need to talk about your business for a few minutes or even take a small Q&A session. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate and talk about your business’ unique selling point (USP).
- Not yet identified your USP? Please ask as we can help you identify it.
If you find the idea of talking about your business or taking a Q&A session daunting, you really don’t need it. If it was a client enquiring about your product or services, I am confident that you would easily be able to handle that. This is no different.
Tips when you get to a networking event
On the day of the event, don’t forget to post on social media that you are there and excited to network – and again, tag in as many people that are relevant.
Always take some business cards to hand out. Nerves are fine but don’t waste your time by attending and not talking to people. Remember the event organisers want it to be a success, so ask if they can introduce you to any one that meets one of your ‘ideal’ attributes. Don’t be afraid to say it is your first, second or third event, as no doubt they will either remember exactly how you feel or be in the same position.
If you are nervous try and keep something in yours hands so you don’t use negative or nervous body language – get a drink or take a folder etc.
Try and remember that you are there to develop your business leads and network, so small talk is fine but try and bring up what you specialise in and good news stories or testimonials.
After the event
Post on social media that you enjoyed it and met several new people and tag them in. When you meet someone that you want to remain in contact with, ask them if they are on social media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and which one is the best way to stay in touch. Ask them if you can connect and to expect the invite.
If it is someone you really want some 1-2-1 face time with, ask if they want to meet for a coffee. Then when you connect remind them and try and organise it or diarise a reminder to set it up in the near future – don’t leave it too long, so within a couple of weeks is probably appropriate.
You should now know:
- The time you have to commit to business networking
- How to identify your ideal audience
- How you find the most appropriate events for you
- How to prep for an event
- How to conduct yourself at an event
- Things to do after an event
I hope this has been a useful guide and would love to hear of the success you have as a result of reading this blog.
Kan Do Ventures specialises in working with business owners and professionals to develop skills and business structure that can assist in all meetings and events. Please get in touch if you think we could help you.