University of Houston Small Business Development Center
By Michelle Loredo
Small business networking is an effective way to expand your business and get to know people in your field. You can create new connections that can lead to new business leads, customers, business partners, and future projects. Make time in your schedule to meet people in person or attend online events. Networking is not limited to physical events; as technology advances, events are taking place daily on different platforms.
We have put together tips on networking to grow your business.
How to Start?
If you are planning on networking, create goals to measure success and improve in future events. Goals can include:
Are Connections Becoming Qualified Leads?
How Many Connections Made Per Event?
How Many Networking Events You Will Attend?
After you create goals, create a strategy to help your networking process. You need to plan what kind of events you will attend and see what organizations are hosting the events. For example:
Large Scale Conferences/Conventions
Local Business Events
Local Professional Chapters Events
Set time aside to attend networking events. Take time to figure out what works with your schedule to meet your goals and avoid wasting time. Your time is valuable so, focus your time on opportunities that will help you.
When you attend networking events, come prepared with your goals and your elevator pitch. Know what you are going to say to other attendees to create lasting connections. Bring materials needed such as business cards, portfolio, a notepad, and paper.
In-person events are the traditional avenue to networking. Meet new people that can open your mind to new ideas or doors for future opportunities. Ask questions when you meet people and listen to their business insight.
Ask about their experience in the field and how they got there. You will gain insight into what others are doing in your field and see what areas to see what gaps you can fill.
Making connections online is the new avenue small business owners are using to stay in touch with people in your market.
You can connect with people via social media platforms, for example, LinkedIn and Facebook. You can build online friendships by mentioning their business on your platforms. Follow them on their social media and complete the mutual. The more people you connect with, the more knowledge you will become in your business community.
Different organizations and local chapters hold online small business networking events that offer opportunities to expand your business. You can also receive resources, discounts, lobbying, and much more.
Post Network Events – Follow Up
For both in-person and online events, following up is an essential part of networking. After attending an event, wait 24 to 48 hours to connect via email or phone call and follow up with your new connections, including a personalized body for each person you are contacting. See if you can meet in person or through a virtual meeting.
SBDC Small Business Help
Are you looking for more insight on networking? The SBDC Network is here to help you grow your business. We offer no-cost business advising, live webinars, recorded webinars, and business resources.
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