The challenge of consistent growth is ever-present for small businesses. It’s difficult for all organizations, but especially for businesses that don’t have as many resources to devote to growth. For this reason, whenever you can develop or implement habits to improve your new business growth, you should do so. Below are six methods that you can deploy while networking to grow your team and its success.
1. Go in with a game plan.
Too often, individuals attend networking events without any structure or plan of attack. Then they come away without gaining much value. Before you attend an event make sure you set clear and concise goals, determine how you will achieve them, and set contingency plans in place, in case your first approach goes awry. For example, set a goal of collecting five business cards and reaching out to those contacts with a follow-up message the next day.
2. Identify the people you want to meet and plan how to do so.
Before you step foot inside the event venue, you should know who is going to be there, who you want to meet, and what their value is. One way to do this is to volunteer to hand out name tags or drink tickets if the opportunity is available. This gives you an easy way to shake everyone’s hand who enters the event in a casual, no-pressure environment. Another method of maximizing your level of success is to scout out who the attendees will be (via social media or the guest list) and see who they are connected to. This opens avenues to even more qualified individuals and gives you another purpose while in attendance. If you can get the list of attendees ahead of time, do so, and then pre-qualify the participants to decide with whom you would like to speak.
3. Bring enough marketing materials, but don’t use them unless asked!
You want to be prepared for sales and marketing conversations. However, most people would prefer a conversation over a brochure. The goal of networking is to have more interesting face-to-face conversations with qualified prospects. Bring your supporting materials, but keep them on the table until someone asks to learn more or needs something to take back to the office. Promotional products and giveaways can get people to your table, but then it’s up to you to start the conversation. Marketing materials don’t sell, you do.
4. Help others before they help you.
It’s easy to fall into the belief that you must rush through your interactions with others at a networking event, trying only to accomplish your goals. However, this approach will inhibit your ability to achieve the results you want. It’s still important to act with haste, but make sure your energy is directed the correct way. When you start a conversation, quickly uncover what your audience’s desires are. If you can find a way to help or make a promise of helping them, you’ll open a path to your own success as well. Emerson’s law of compensation states, “If you want more, give more.” Giving is the best way to get attention at a networking event.
5. Attend with your team.
Just because you want to get individuals into one-on-one conversations when you attend an event, it doesn’t mean you have to go alone. It’s a good idea to have multiple members of your team attend networking events. This way you can cover more ground, and have more of an overall presence. As you would if you were operating as an individual, make sure your team identifies their objectives, plan of attack, and fallback maneuvers if necessary. Then split up and go tackle the objectives as a team. Maybe one person stays at the booth and the other mingles?
6. Follow through and follow-up.
You and your efforts are only as good as your follow-through. If you don’t take good notes while networking and don’t translate those conversations into meetings or phone calls later, then what was the point? Make sure that you have a system in place to approach each prospect or peer that you interacted with at the event. Connect with people on social media, exchange information, and then set time to talk more in-depth after the event.
Networking is a lot more than shaking hands, free drinks, and small talk. If you plan accordingly, identify your objectives, prepare your materials, provide value, attend as a team, and follow-through, you’re sure to be successful in growing your small business.