Networking that works

Helen Cox MarketingSometimes I feel like a bit of a dolt. Why didn’t I start going networking sooner? I’d tried everything and was struggling. But my luck turned around when I started getting my face out there and meeting people.

It took me a long time to get the courage to go. I bought a book, read that. Went on a training course and finally finally decided it was time to take the plunge. My first networking event was at a Chamber of Commerce in Kent and the first person I met was a marketing consultant, like me who was telling me how hard going solo was. Great start.

It didn’t deter me though and I’ve been thinking this week what tips would I give people new to networking or just starting a business? Read on to find out more!

Where to look for networking events

Firstly it is really hard to find a consolidated place to find all the networking events that are happening. You really have to hunt for them. Recently I can across a great website called https://iwant2network.com/ which has all the networking groups you can think of nationally. A great place to start if you are looking for events in your area.

It’s also good to do targeted searches on women in business events, Kent for example and see what the search results bring up! There are lots of different types of networking events in varying formats. You need to try a couple and see what works for you.

What to wear 

I’ve been going through the motions with what to wear at networking events for some time. I’ve heard a couple of personal stylists talk about what colour clothes you should wear, that dressing for success makes you look successful etc. But I have come to the conclusion that I just want to be me and taken for me at face value. I don’t want to pretend to be anything I’m not, so if people see what I wear and think ‘no thank you’ that’s fine because the likelihood is they are probably not a good fit for me either!

How you should approach a networking event

Networking isn’t sales. I have heard that over and over again. I never go to an event thinking or even expecting to make a sale there. These things take time and the more I put pressure on myself the more I bugger up that know, like, trust relationship. These people don’t know me so why would they buy from me? Approach every opportunity in a friendly non-pushy way, ask simple questions, get to know people and don’t sell ever, it doesn’t come across well.

That 1-minute pitch

Some networking events have the opportunity to make a one minute pitch. Some don’t. My Women In Business Network leader Lizzie told us to always say who we want to connect with (and for those you who had read this far you need to check out her networking groups they are awesome). This piece of advice was and is invaluable.

If I say I want to connect with small businesses it becomes too vague, when I said this month I was keen to connect with Architects and Interior Designers people perked up and I am hoping to have some intros too. If you don’t ask (and be specific) you don’t get. Simple.

Be helpful

I always want to be as helpful as possible in meetings and as soon as someone lets me know who they want to connect I always try to think about ways they can be connected. I’m not WooWoo but I do believe in putting good things out there and thinking that at some point someone I’ve met will think of me and refer me! Plus it’s a great feeling knowing that you have helped someone make a good connection and grow their business.

The fortune is in the follow-up

Going to a networking meeting is the first part of getting to know someone. However, you really have to make the time to have 121s with people. Finding out more about someone and what they do gives you such a better insight into how you can help them and gives you a better chance at explaining your business to them too. From my experience, if you don’t follow up or have regular 121s with those you meet it does become a bit pointless as attending a meeting isn’t enough!

These are just a few tips on how to make the most of networking, based on my experience over the last couple of months. Don’t forget networking is a key part of any marketing strategy, the sooner you get stuck in the sooner you reap rewards. Make sure you include it in your marketing plan!

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4 thoughts on “The chemistry of connecting: why networking works

  1. Great concise tips Helen! Love them. I always loved the tip I received from my Mum “act as if you are a host” – so I love being able to be the introducer for others, finding out who people would love to network with, and if I know someone is in the room in that space, I will introduce them. It takes away the pressure of interrupting other conversations, plus I look great because I did an introduction for the both of them!

  2. Good practical advice Helen! Couple of other hints I have picked up over the years –
    1. If you are scared about walking into that room full of people talking – arrive early and be the first there, the first person arriving after you has no choice but to start with you, a group then builds round you!
    2. People love talking about themselves so have a good range of open ended questions up your sleeve to ask if you get stuck about subjects to cover and small talk
    3. As you mention, very important to follow up and connect somehow after the event, I have found inviting them to join you at another networking event works well.

    1. Yes the open ended questions are a must don’t want to get caught out in that awkward moment of silence. Also like point 3 – good idea hadn’t thought about that!

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