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The Art of Small Business Networking

13/09/2010


“People will do business with people they trust and like, or people who are recommended by someone they trust.”
- Harry Markopolos, Author of No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller

Networking isn’t easy, it takes energy to find and grow a network. Now that’s not to say that attending a networking event and handing out business cards isn’t easy, but it probably isn’t all that effective either; to build a useful network you have to have give and take, the more you give to your business network the more you will get back. There are a few simple yet effective things you probably aren’t doing to help build your network:

  1. Attend networking events… proactively. Networking is more than handing out promotional materials and walking away. Get to know the people you talk to, explain how your product or service can help them, and then take the time to learn how they can help you. If you feel that someone is a worthwhile contact, exchange information, or better yet, set up a time to get together and discuss your common interests further. Business cards mean nothing if your contacts walk away without remembering your face and a specific reason why they should talk to you again.
  2. Follow up. The follow up is the most important aspect of networking. Send an email to the contacts for which you have received a new business card, thank them for their time, and if possible arrange a meeting. If they didn’t remember you from the networking event, here is your chance to make an impression.
  3. Networking doesn’t only happen at events. Remember that just about anywhere you are there is a networking opportunity. Educate others about your business, always carry a supply of business cards, and take care to spend as much time listening to others as you do talking about your business.
  4. Not everyone is going to be the perfect contact. Try thinking of this as a “Pay it forward” strategy. Not everyone you meet is going to be your next big business deal, but you never know how you can help each other until you try.

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