Growing your professional network is a good thing to do. LinkedIn gives you a digital presence for your professional life, but this should not replace actually meeting people. This is especially important for your SME as you seek to meet new people, who hopefully will become new customers.
As you grow professionally, more networking will become an option to you. It’s up to you what you attend and what you choose to swerve. Some networking groups are informal, and free to join, others are more structured/rigid and do cost you to join. Other groups are a hybrid of both. There’s nothing really to be scared of, groups are generally full of likeminded people and what’s more is a more credible way of meeting new people, without cold calling.
So to help you, here’s our top tips to getting the most from the networking you undertake:
Take business cards
Easy to forget but essential to follow up
Arrive on time
Some networking is based around a lecture/seminar, so arriving late is not good form. Arriving late for any networking does show a lack of interest in this group/practice in principal. If your heart’s not in it, don’t go
Two ears and one mouth; use them in proportion
Listen and ask questions. Be comfortable in the environment, enquire about the people you meet. If you bowl in with the sales pitch about how good you are, your card will be marked and you’ll be seen as a bore
Do follow up
If you collect the contact details of someone you met, it’s always good to drop them a note by email the following day. You never know if your paths will cross again, and that introduction has been made. Also very good idea to leave your contact details on your follow up email. If someone is of particular interest, be cool after the event and develop the relationship in the way you'd want to receive the follow up. Don't be too eager.
Analyse the networking you’ve attended
So you’ve been along; what have you got out of it? Was it worth the money (if you had to pay?). Was it worth getting up earlier? If you’ve got nothing out of it, it’s a good idea to drop the person who invited you a note to say what you thought. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You might be invited back to try the group again; it’s always worth considering
If you enjoy a group, why not invite similar likeminded professionals. It’s how networking benefits
Can you suffer death by networking?
In the writer’s opinion, you can have death by networking. Too much of meeting and greeting means you won’t get the work done; you have to strike a balance of both.
As a business that continually looks to promote the SME and start up community; Toople.com’s advice is to enjoy it and you’ll develop business from it.