Advertising is what separates the men from the boys, business-wise. But what if you’re just starting your business? Besides baby steps in building your brand message, you need to network.
Why is networking such a powerful tool for new and aspiring business owners?
Business is about people. It starts with an idea, and gets off the ground with networking. Whether you’re looking for customers and clients, help or information, it’s all much easier to achieve when you’re not alone in your home office.
In the old days, there were “clubs” where businessmen could hang out and smoke cigars and slap each other on the back. (Or that’s how I always imagined it.) Nowadays, everyone has a start-up, with needs and services to be exchanged. Get in on it.
How can small business owners best utilize their time at networking events?
Decide ahead of time who you want to meet. If you don’t know who’s going to be there, at least have a goal in mind of what you’d like to accomplish. Connections with press? Information on how other entrepreneurs do things? A chance to practice your elevator pitch?
How about a few networking tips for entrepreneurs?
Brush your teeth, and show up. Showing up at an event, no matter how awkward you might feel, is the most important part. And check your stash of business cards — we’ve all reached into our bags at some point and found we’ve run out.
Dress the part—and then some. When you look across a crowded room, who do you notice? Admittedly, it’s easier for a woman to stand out and still look professional, but any man can benefit from a new pair of glasses or a good haircut.
Find something you have in common with people besides business. Sometimes swapping info on ski resorts or preschools or the best taco trucks can lead to a business connection. And don’t forget to Facebook friend people, or swap Twitter or Instagram names.
Stick with the winners. This old adage has a lot of truth in it. If you find yourself stuck in the corner talking to the caterer’s cousin, you’re not going to get anywhere (unless you’re a cater waiter). Politely say, “It was so nice meeting you. I’m going to go mingle some more.” On the other hand, if he’s a hotshot young web designer, get his card. Then keep moving.
Let the magic happen. Introduce yourself to the person behind you in the line for the bathroom, or next to you at the open bar. You never know when opportunity strikes!
Be a good conversationalist. Don’t stop at “So, what do you do?” Dig further. “What would you do if you could do anything?” You’ll make a more meaningful connection.
Offer to help the people you meet with their projects. It’s not all about you. And being generous often leads to future business and connections.