As many small business owners are aware, one of the hardest parts of running a business is getting noticed and building up a reputation. Leaflets, social media, websites, emails, letters and so on are all well and good, but when money and time is precious, there is another way, if done correctly. That is networking.
Networking offers great opportunities to expand visibility, to meet people and get to know people. Networks take place usually either early morning, lunchtime or evening, but can be at any time of day, so there will be a meeting somewhere to suit you.
Many of KSH Safety Services' clients originated via one form of networking or another, either directly or indirectly.
If you have never networked before, it can be daunting, but just go for it - networkers are friendly and will welcome you along. Try several groups - they all have different structures and types of business at them. Find ones that you like.
However you network, here are some tips to help you:
1. Prepare a 40-60 second pitch. Many groups give everyone the opportunity to speak. Practice your pitch, and hone it over time. Tell them your name, the name of your company, what your company does, and any particular type of client or help you may be looking for.
2. Take plenty of business cards and leaflets. Some groups allow you to display a banner too.
3. Don't do the direct sell. Talk to people about their business. Get to know them. The direct sell turns people off. They need to find out about you and get to trust you. Ask yourself how you can help them. Don't not talk to someone because they are not your ideal client. Talk anyway - they may well be able to refer you to one of their contacts. It is those you least expect to help you who often do.
4. If there are opportunities to give presentations at meetings, volunteer for them, but prepare well and keep it interesting. Allow the audience to take something useful away from your presentation.
5. Join the network social media groups and participate in them, but don't be over controversial as you don't want to get into a public argument.
6. Follow up with the people you meet a few days later for a coffee or more in depth chat.
7. Don't give up. Networking is often a slow burner - once someone knows you well then you can become their supplier of choice when they need you.
So which groups should you go to? I network at numerous groups to keep the choice of people there as wide as possible. Some groups are free, some are quite an investment. Those with fees generally allow you to come to one or two meetings to see if it is for you before you join.
However you network, enjoy it, get involved, and it will lead to business if you do it correctly.
Finally, if you see me at a network meeting, come and say hello.