|Networking - The Key to Lifetime Work
Small Business Administration
Networking is an invaluable tool that anyone in the business world can utilize. Effective networking can be your best form of marketing, as well as being extremely affordable. To give a definition of networking, networking occurs when there is a planned event or gathering with the primary goal of connecting with others. The purpose of networking can vary based on one's own agenda, yet the primary focus is to meet people, and have people meet you. In other words, you have the opportunity to market yourself and your business in a relaxed, social situation. This often proves to be a comfortable situation for all involved.
There are many opportunities to network in virtually every community on some scale. For a new owner of a small business, usually the most productive starting point would be to contact a local chamber of commerce, or other organization that suits your field of business. Most chambers of commerce and professional organizations have membership dues that can be a considerable amount of money. To make sure that the organization is right for you before you join and pay dues, it is usually acceptable to request to visit the group first as a guest at no charge. This will enable you to get to know the group, get the "feel" of the group, and make sure it is right for you without putting out any money first.
You may want to visit, and possibly join, several chambers or organizations, but whatever you choose to do, it will only be effective if you use it. Regular attendance at the meetings is extremely important for effective networking. As you attend the meetings, you will be recognized by more and more people, as well as getting to know more and more people, and this facilitates you reaching your goal. People will know you and your company, and refer to you, and you will do the same for them to reciprocate. Personal referrals and "word of mouth" advertising is invaluable and highly effective.
To make the most of your networking meeting, here are a few guidelines you should follow:
While it is important to prepare for your meeting by following the preceding criteria, it is also very important to prepare by making sure your personal appearance is appropriate for the gathering. Your appearance is the first thing people notice. Unfortunately, lasting impressions can be formed about you or your company before you even open your mouth based solely on your appearance. Because of this, it is important to pay attention to this detail. Some points you may want to note would be to:
After the meeting, it is important that you follow up with the people you have met in a timely manner. If someone was interested in your company, don't wait two or three weeks to drop them a line; they may have forgotten you by then. Also, it is very important to follow through on any promises you may have made. If you told someone you would call them with some information, make sure you do it! It is very important to be credible and reliable in order for your networking efforts to be truly fruitful.
Networking can be costly in fees, dues, luncheons, etc., but if done effectively, it can prove to be an invaluable investment in your business's success.