Trade shows and events provide significant opportunities to connect
All businesses, including yours, thrive on connections. And the more you can grow and strengthen these connections, the more success you will likely experience. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for boosting your networking efforts.
Tip #1: Meet people … and bring your business cards.
These days, it seems like just about everything is either online or “virtual.” But judging from the growth of gatherings through Meetup, Eventbrite and Facebook Events, there’s still a real hunger for human interaction.
Try to attend various forums: professional association meetings, civic and volunteer events, alumni gatherings, and so on. And while you don’t have to go with the express purpose of making business connections, you may very well find opportunities to discuss what you do. When that happens, be prepared with your business card — it might seem like a relic in this digital age, but it’s still a good marketing tool. In fact, according to one study, sales increase by 2.5% for every 2000 cards that get passed out. That’s a lot of cards, but when you consider the small cost of designing and printing them, it’s not a bad return on your investment.
According to a LinkedIn study, 79% of professionals agree that networking is valuable for their career progression, but only 48% say they keep in touch with their network when things are going well in their careers.
Tip #2: Make your conversations count.
Many people think that with networking, quantity of contacts is everything. But while you might want to cast a wide net, it’s ultimately the quality of your contacts that can pay off.
Instead of always striving for hundreds of conversations, focus on a few meaningful ones. And when you have these talks, remember to be a good listener. Put yourself in other people’s shoes so you can understand their challenges and possibly even help them in some way. Above all, avoid being too salesy, which is always a turnoff.
Tip #3: Stay in touch.
Don’t confine your networking efforts to those times when you feel you need to give your business a boost. Instead, stay in regular contact with your network. Nobody likes to feel they’re only being contacted when somebody wants something from them. Hopefully, when you make real connections with individuals, you enjoy and look forward to communicating with them.
Tip #4: Be aware of reciprocity.
As humans, we seem to be hardwired to return favors. You may want to use this instinct for reciprocity in your networking efforts. For example, just taking someone out for coffee might earn you some consideration for future business. Or you might offer a blogger or an online influencer a personalized sample of your work, possibly receiving a favorable review in return. The goal is to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
Tip #5: Publicize yourself and your work.
One aspect of networking involves getting your name out there as an expert. You might consider starting a blog or even creating a YouTube channel as a forum to build and maintain your brand and corporate identity. You can also help grow your personal brand by publishing articles on platforms such as LinkedIn or Medium.
Tip #6: Share your contact information and more.
If you haven’t already done so, expand your email signature by linking it to your website, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms. You can also beef up your Twitter bio by mentioning what you do, including some of the keywords you think people might search for, such as your job title and any specialties you have.
Anyone can succeed at networking. All you need is initiative, patience, a long-term perspective and a genuine interest in others. By putting your networking skills to work, you can not only increase your business but also get more enjoyment from it.