We all network. Sometimes we just don’t know it. Networking is just a fancy buzzword for folks who tell other folks about things. Have you ever asked a friend where they get their hair cut, or a neighbor who they use to service their air conditioner? Well, that’s just old-fashioned networking—asking for a referral. And don’t you take their recommendation to heart and check into it? So it just makes sense that your clients probably ask their friends or business associates for recommendations on who they use for printing, mailing, fulfillment, too. (Yes, we love referrals!)
Networking is just another way to market yourself, or your company. Keeping your name in front of clients, as well as potential clients, is a great way to accomplish this. Networking has been described as life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. If you are in business you can’t afford NOT to.
Say thank you – a lot!
Be sure to ask your new or potential clients where they heard about your company. Simple things like dropping a thank you note in the mail to the referring person can really go a long way. Quite a lot of our business comes from word-of-mouth referral, and I can track a lot of it back to networking!
Watch the newspaper
The newspapers are full of opportunities to make contact! Check the business section for the “who’s who”, or “achievers”, (whatever your paper calls it). Also look in your local business journal or business magazine. It’s a great way to keep up with who is being promoted, has received an award, been appointed to a board, or changed jobs, etc. Drop them a personal note of congratulations, enclose your card, and ask them to stay in touch. (Be sure to update the information in your contacts). If they have changed companies, see if you can find out who took their place, then make contact with the new person and introduce yourself. That’s a two-fer!
Get out of the office
Are you involved with a Service Club like Rotary or Kiwanis? Lions or Chamber of Commerce? Offer to speak at a monthly meeting about what you know best--! Go to places where like-minded people gather – industry events, local networking or leads groups, even College or Professional sporting events.
Get involved with after-hours mixers, and tabletop trade fairs. Stay visible and meet new faces! Even if you are not an exhibitor, be sure to meet the ones who are there, leave them a business card. Be able to wear the hat of the buyer or the seller. Plan to follow up with those who are your prospects.
Forget the things our Mothers taught us
Things like “Don’t talk to strangers” and “you should wait to be properly introduced” are not what you want to remember when at these social and business gatherings! Learn to extend your hand, start a conversation, and make a connection. Even if you have to practice in front of the mirror, learn a quick one-to-two line advertisement for your business. When a new acquaintance asks, “So, what do you do?” you will be ready and not stumble over some lame, embarrassing response. When you can answer without having to think, you will appear to be more confident. Then you can say goodbye to sweaty palms and pounding hearts!
Be Not Afraid
No matter what or where it is, whether a charitable function, political gathering, or community event, you will have common ground that gives way to an opening, and an easy way to break the ice. If it’s the school PTA, your common interest is your kids! If it’s your trade association, your common interest, obviously, is your business, your location, even the equipment you run.
I always say that strangers are just new friends I haven’t yet met. Networking opportunities are everywhere; don’t be afraid to confront one! Give it a shot, next time you are at an event, walk up to a stranger, introduce yourself, break the ice with your common thread opening, and go away with a new contact, or even a new friend.