By Ryan C Stewart
START NETWORKING NOW
If you're feeling a little unsure about how to begin networking, it may not be as hard as you think. Here are some great ideas to get you and your business out there - now!
Friends & family Begin by asking yourself this question:
How many of my friends and family really understand what I do and what my business is about?
If you can't answer: All of them, it's time to start talking. It's understandable that you have other things to discuss with friends and family, but why not tell them about your business too? They may know a small-business owner, or a human resources manager, or a real estate agent... anyone who could benefit from using your products.
They may even want to purchase some for their own gift giving. But, you can't benefit from any of that if you don't tell friends and family about your business.
JOIN THE CLUB
Many businesspeople find success networking by joining local business-related clubs. Groups, such as your area Chamber of Commerce, allow people who do business in a community to come together from mutual and reciprocal businesses. Members often promote and bring each other business. Other groups may serve to help educate you, learn from others and share your insights, or perfect skills. For example, joining your local Toastmasters chapter is a great way to practice and hone your presentation skills, while getting to know others in a variety of business fields.
Joining social, community, or cause-related clubs can help you make connections that will benefit your business too. Your career is often one of the first things discussed with someone you meet for the first time. And when that conversation takes place, it can be a great opportunity to find a potential customer or develop a relationship that could generate some referrals.
Develop an elevator speech You can meet new people and make connections at any time: shopping at the grocery store, visiting the bank, stopping for gas, or even in an elevator on a quick ride to the 18th floor. Always be ready to talk about your business, by developing what's known as an "elevator speech," or a short, 30-seconds-or-less description of your business that can be used to answer the question, "So, what do you do?"
The key to a good elevator speech is to make it informative, results-oriented, and provocative. Informative so that the person you are meeting has an overall understanding of what you do. Results-oriented so that they know the benefits that your business provides to your customers. And, provocative in the sense that it provokes thought, questions, and/or additional conversation.
Get online There are so many ways to reach people online! Start or join conversations with others about rewards, incentives, their industry, HR issues, and employment trends on blogs and forums. Find interactive webinars and online meetings. Or, search for groups with live meetings in your community.
Social networking websites, like Facebook®, Twitter®, and LinkedIn® can help you make contact with people through other contacts and share information about your business too. Build a networking page for your business using the sites' free platform. Post and respond to comments. Add useful industry links and insightful links.
HOST YOUR OWN NETWORKING PARTY
Networking parties are a great way to find new clients and increase awareness of your business. Don't know of any in your area? Why not hold your own? With some prep time and work, it may be simpler than you think to hold a successful networking party.
The goal Keep in mind that you're hosting a networking party, not a sales party. The goal is to have business people meet, mix, mingle, and exchange information. This is not the time to sell your products; this is the time to sell you. You'll be introducing invitees to one another (a great reason for them to come!), and they'll be introducing their guests to you.
You can also use your Personal Retail Website as a presentation tool. Show potential customers how easy it is to order by walking them through your site on a laptop or their computer. If they're short on time, provide them with your web address to check out your website on their own. Then, follow-up in a day or two.
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