For most of us, networking isn’t a comfortable experience, but the reality is that just because the people there aren’t necessarily your ‘target demographic’ now, they could be in the future, and you never know when you might need some of the random services that are offered by networking group attendees.
Another thing to bear in mind regarding networking is that there are a wide range of different types of groups available, from informal networking walking groups, to social ‘coffee morning’ style events, to more formal evening dinners. Many of these groups offer the opportunity to test the event before you sign up to become a regular member (which can be a costly commitment), so it’s worth giving a few different networking groups a go to find out the one that suits you and your business best rather than opting for the first group you find.
In this post-Covid19 world, the future of physical networking groups are still a little in the air, and it’s difficult to know the impact that social distancing will have on the format of these meetings. Many have moved online in recent months to try and ensure that their community is still connected, so it’s worth seeing whether there are any online networking groups that you could also trial in the short term – it’s likely that they will cost less than physical events due to the fact that the groups aren’t having to hire venues and put on refreshments, so it could be a more cost-effective way of trialling different networking communities.
As well as video-conferencing networking, there are also a number of platforms on Social Media designed for business to business networking, from local business networks on Facebook to industry specific groups on LinkedIn, etc. If you can join several of these and keep an eye on the posts, making useful comments and providing helpful insights when possible, you will have the opportunity to grow the profile of your business online in a positive way. Unfortunately, there are trolls on every online platform now, so it’s important to keep your communication positive, supportive and helpful and ignore the odd malicious member of these groups!
Other tips for networking – whether you are doing this online or in person – include nailing your ‘elevator pitch’, the 60-90 second spiel that you give about your business and services so that it rolls of the tongue comfortable and easily! Practice in the mirror and ask for feedback from your loved ones, as it needs to be as memorable and clear as possible, and as you are working ‘in’ your business 24/7, what seems obvious to you may not be that obvious to an outsider! Why not also consider thinking about what problems that you can solve with your services rather than simply listing all the things that you can do? This really helps for people to understand the positive impact that your skills and experience can have on their business if they opted to work with you.
The overall message I’d like to share is that just because networking isn’t always a comfortable, natural or enjoyable experience for you, it doesn’t mean you should avoid it! It could be that you find the perfect group for you and end up actively looking forward to the meetings and events, and find some perfect customers (or at least some great quality referrals) as a direct result of joining the group. If you do give it a go and consistently loathe it, why not look for a different group in your area – not everyone thrives in a formal networking situation, so find what works for you and embrace it!