Working “On” Your Business Series: Networking Your Way To Your Customers
Many clients who purchase a franchise make the same mistake that many small business owners do. Assuming that because you have hung your shingle customers will know to
come in the doors.
You will need to get out there and invite them in.
Sometimes, that means networking with many people in order to get your customer to come in.
When it comes to networking many small business owners believe it is just a matter of showing up at a chamber meeting, shaking hands and waiting for the follow up. No, networking is not so simple. You must dedicate time and energy to meet potential clients and build a report with the community to gain information that will help you grow your business. Here are some helpful tips to assist you in becoming a networking guru which will help you attract the right customers and build a team of community cheerleaders to help you.
Pay Attention to the News
The next time you hear a story in the news that a leader in your field has won an award, been appointed to a position or made a positive impact in the community; send him/her a note of congratulations. Acknowledging the accomplishment gives you a perfect opportunity to introduce yourself and ask for advice or an appointment.
Join Professional Organizations
Do not just attend local meetings but participate as well? You will find that this is one of the best ways to network with either people who can provide you leads and perhaps offer advice on
how to improve your business. These organizations can also assist you in becoming a part of the community you are in which in turn helps you establish stronger community relationships.
Get involved with Seminars
Many community colleges or professional organizations in your area provide free to low cost seminars in marketing, public speaking or other professional development topics. These seminars will
give you new and interesting ways to organize run or promote your business. These types of activities also provide opportunities to meet and talk with other people like yourself and can keep you
motivated. Check local business papers for information.
Volunteer with a Purpose
What is the point of sitting in your office avoiding the sales call or waiting for the customer to reach out? Staying in only serves to isolate you from your network and customer. While you are waiting for that perfect call, why not get out and volunteer at your favorite charity or someplace you have always wanted to work. Volunteering serves many purposes.
1) You can maintain and/or develop skills that will help you in your company,
2) You will be providing a nonprofit much needed, respected and appreciated talent that many organizations could not afford to pay for especially in touch times, and
3) you will stay connected to and build a stronger network as people are able to see your work and will think of you when they need your service.
Prepare a Networking Goal
Many make the mistake of just showing up at an event and passing out cards. We take time to figure out what events are important for us to attend, find the proper business attire and practice our 30 second “elevator speech” but often forget to understand what we want to leave with from the event. We need to make sure that our time there is impactful and we get to the right people for our needs. Here are some helpful tricks to keep you focused:
• Only take a small number of business cards – no more than 10. This will remind you as you go thru them that you need to be clear and focused on getting your information to the right few people
• Keep them in one pocket – pick a side to take cards from and use the other side to add cards to. You should leave with as many cards as you gave out. If you started with 5 and end up with only 4 cards plus 1 of your own, you can adjust your networking accordingly.
• Keep blank cards available or an app on your phone – sometimes people forget their business cards. Having blank cards in your pocket allows you to write down the person’s information plus it will help you remember that person to write his or her name down and why you have their information. You might also simply pull up notepad on your phone to write their information down or even scan their card right into your phone contacts. There are great free business card reader applications available.
• Have note cards ready to mail – this is a lost art and it is very appreciated by all. You can always send an email and make a phone call, but having already addressed notecards available in your car or home to write a quick “it was great meeting you” note goes a long way to help people remember you from the many others they met that day.
If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out the consultants in the Veterans Business Resource Center.
Our services are no cost to transitioning military, Veterans and their immediate family members. No matter what part of the country you are in, we have a center that can assist you including Guam and Puerto Rico. Good luck with your networking.
Darcella K Craven has over 20 years of experience in corporate, government, non profit and military organizations. She is currently the Executive Director of the Veterans Business Resource Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting Honorably Discharged Veterans, National Guard and Reservist and Active Duty personnel and their families with transitioning back into civilian life with starting and expanding businesses.
An Army Veteran, she holds a Masters of Arts in Management from Webster University and is currently pursuing her Doctors of Management focusing on impact of military experience on small
business decision making. Darcella has been featured in numerous articles for her transition from the military and the welfare system to an accomplished business woman and is actively involved
in many civic organizations.
For more information: Website: www.vetbiz.com