Networking is an important part of marketing your business, but if not done correctly, it can be an immense waste of time. Learning the proper networking techniques can make all the difference.

Making useful connections with other business owners is an important part of running a successful business. You’ll find that there are many reasons to network when you own your own business, including:

  • Forming partnerships
  • Finding new service providers
  • Finding new clients

Never pass up an opportunity to network, since you never know just how beneficial it might be. Even when nothing really comes out of the meeting, you will know that more people are now aware of your business, and remember that you never know who a contact knows. Even if they’re not your next customer, they may know someone who is.

Go to Meetups

You can network anywhere, but some events are designed specifically to help you meet other business owners. These meetups occur all over the world, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one near you. Twitter and Facebook are excellent places to start looking for events, or you can try a site like Meetup, which links business owners, as well as niche groups together.

Look for meetups that are for business owners, or those that cater to your target audience. There’s nothing wrong with getting to know your audience better and laying the groundwork for some marketing later on. If you sell baby clothes, attend mom gatherings so you can find out what they look for in baby clothes, then take that information back to improve your product.

Talk to Everyone

You’ll find networking opportunities anywhere, if you know what to look for. Essentially, if you are near people, you have a chance to let them know about your business and to make a potentially helpful contact. There are endless opportunities to meet new people and let them know what you do.

  • Sports events
  • School events
  • Family reunions
  • Waiting in line
  • Doctor and dentist waiting rooms

If you aren’t a naturally talkative person, it might take a bit of practice to start talking to everyone you meet, but it is just good business sense to make as many connections as possible. You never know when you might meet someone with just the talent you need or who is looking for a business like yours.

Develop an Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch simply states what your business does within 30-60 seconds. The idea is that you could tell someone about your business while in a short elevator ride. However, it’s more than just telling them what you do, it also needs to be intriguing and let the person know what your business can do to make their lives better. This can be compressed into just a couple of short sentences and used in nearly any situation when someone asks you what you do.

Deciding what to say will take a little time, since it’s best to hone your pitch until it is perfect.

  1. Write down what your business does.
  2. Write down two or three benefits to the client.
  3. Work out a way to say the above in two or three sentences.

Once you have your pitch, be sure to practice it so you can easily use it without stumbling over the wording.

Carry Business Cards

While most people carry business cards when they go to a meeting or trade show, they might not always have these handy marketing devices with them when they are at the doctor’s office or a family reunion.

As you’ve seen from previous tips, it’s possible to make a networking opportunity out of any occasion, so you want to be prepared. Once you have made your impression, make sure the people you’ve spoken with will be able to contact you again. This is where business cards come in. They are a quick and easy way of giving your contact information to someone who may be interested in following up at a later date. Or, they may pass your information on to someone else who is in need of your products or services.

Get Online

Any business not currently using social media as a form of networking is missing out on a very powerful opportunity. Sites like Twitter and Facebook may seem simple at first glance, but they actually offer access to hundreds of thousands of potential clients.

Social media doesn’t involve merely sending out promotional status updates, however. It requires interaction, like all offline methods of networking, but allows you to contact people that you may never meet face to face. Take advantage of this powerful medium and use it to meet other business owners and possible customers, then form relationships with them and build trust through conversation.

Of course, once you have contacts that could be very useful, it’s a good idea to stay in touch with them. Send a follow up email or give them a phone call. Make sure you maintain the relationship until you are able to use it. Having the right contacts can make your life considerably easier and may be very beneficial to your business, so don’t just meet people and then forget about them. Ask for their business card in return and contact them later.