Running a small business is a time-consuming undertaking. Many small-business owners find themselves so short on spare time that they put networking at the bottom of their to-do lists. They may have every intention of getting to it, but other, more pressing business activities seem to keep getting in the way.
Neglecting networking is extremely short-sighted. Without it, few small businesses will live up to their potential. What could be more integral to success than increasing customer engagement and brand awareness, or learning from the insights of other professionals?
It may seem as though successful networking is the domain of social butterflies, but even the most reserved entrepreneur can improve their networking skills by following a few simple tips.
Make a Real Connection
Yes, one should be armed with a snappy elevator pitch when attending networking events, but networking solely for the purpose of reciting that pitch is not how it’s done. When attending networking events, small-business owners should strive to create meaningful connections with the people they meet. Making an effort to get to know others creates trust and respect.
Look for Opportunities to Help Others
Nobody attends networking events for purely altruistic reasons. That being said, those who are eager to help others are likely to find that their contacts will be more apt to come to their aid when they are in need of assistance. Networking is, by definition, an exchange. The more you give, the more you tend to get.
Sometimes the benefits of networking will arrive swiftly, but that will not always be the case. Small-business owners should be patient with their networking efforts, and should not expect too much, too soon. By approaching networking with tenacity and patience, business owners can cultivate strong business relationships that will last.
Stay on the Radar
Effective small-business networking goes beyond the initial meeting and subsequent follow-up. Business owners should do some research on the contacts they make at networking events, and should look for opportunities to engage with members of their business network on a regular basis, by asking questions, sharing information, or making relevant professional introductions between contacts.
The above tips apply to networking via face-to-face meetings, but they are equally applicable to networking online. Every small-business owner should use online networking resources to their fullest potential. Very valuable business contacts can be made via social media, online forums, and blogging, and business owners who ignore these opportunities will have a difficult time gaining any networking traction in today’s connected world.