Networking is important for all business owners, especially small business owners, because it provides opportunities to generate new business and leads, meet VIP clients, approach investors and get important advice and mentorship. Having access to the right people in your industry can open doors and help you grow your business faster and more efficiently than doing so on your own.
However, some small business owners encounter roadblocks such as lack of time or money and being too shy or intimidated to approach people at events. The good news is that networking is always possible with these tips!
Prepare an Ice Breaker
Many people are naturally shy, which is why it may be very intimidating for them to approach a big name client, possible partner, or mentor at an event. The problem is that there is no point to attend these events unless you proactively choose to network.
Even if you are not a social butterfly, you can effectively approach and start conversations with strangers by preparing icebreakers and elevator pitches. An icebreaker is an effective way to engage with another person without diving right into your pitch. You can follow up on a recent speech, inquire about the person’s reasons for attending the event, or make a comment about the weather or food.
Once you have managed to start a conversation, you will need to get to the point quickly so you don’t lose the individual’s attention or have them turn to speak to someone else. This can be easily done with an elevator pitch, which is a minute-long description of who you are, what your business is and what you hope to achieve by talking to this person.
Invest in Business Cards
Networking doesn’t only have to occur at official events; you never know when you can meet a potential client, investor or business partner! This is why it is imperative to make and always carry business cards to hand out to those you want to get in contact with in the future. Plus, a business card makes you look more professional and serious than simply writing your email or phone number on a piece of napkin.
When deciding which business card to create, you can go the traditional route or attempt to make your card stand out from the rest. Consider your brand and the image you want it to portray to others when designing the cards, remembering that your brand image needs to be consistent across all of your marketing materials. If you own a tax accounting firm, you likely will need to create a more conservative card, while a young tech company or a baby clothing boutique can afford to be more risque with their design.
All cards need to contain the following information:
- Phone number(s)
However, they don’t need to be limited to that information — you can include photos of your products or services, a motto and even a short call to action (CTA)!
Utilize Social Media
You may not be aware, but you can connect with important players in your industry without ever leaving the confines of your business! The truth is that technological advances have made it easier than ever to join online groups, ask questions and communicate with others through a computer or handheld device.
While LinkedIn is a platform typically associated with finding work, it is also the most popular professional networking resource, connecting over 433 million users in more than 200 countries worldwide. Once you create a profile on the site, you can connect with others by importing your email contacts, or manually entering a person’s name or email. Once you make connections with your contacts, you can view their connections, creating a networking circle with very little effort!
Additionally, LinkedIn has many online groups dedicated to specific industries and careers. The members of the groups ask questions, provide advice, hold forums and even organize offline events!
Other social media platforms, such as Facebook, can also serve as beneficial resources to connect with important business contacts online.
There are great benefits to networking, especially the connections and knowledge you can gain from attending conferences, setting up exhibits at tradeshows and traveling to award ceremonies and other events. If you need financial help to afford these networking strategies, turn to IOU Financial! We specialize in helping small business owners grow their businesses with loans of up to $300,000! Plus, if you just found out about an important conference, you don’t need to wait weeks for approval, as we can provide a loan in under 48 hours! Click here to find out more!