At the Women’s Business Club we are passionate about networking and know the importance of being an earnest connector! We know networking works and we love to connect people. It’s all about relationships – genuine, meaningful relationships not just greeting someone and shoving a business card in their hand hoping for a sale. Of course, the results at our club speak for themselves – businesses are growing and blossoming through our network. Understanding how to network effectively is one of the most powerful tools any business owner can use.
It’s about WHO you know
Firstly, you need to know who you need to know! Are you networking and randomly collecting contact details from everyone? Building a network this way is very time consuming and not very effective. Before you even step into an event know who you are looking for. Once you know who you need in your network start building your network strategically by seeking out who you need directly and indirectly by putting it out there who you are looking for. It’s not only about who you know but about who they know too. I usually recommend five people at a time, you really can’t realistically build meaningful relationships with many more than that can you? So if you had to choose only five people to invest your time in who would they be, what would they do and why do you need them. Once you have established that make sure that you have something to offer them too, you don’t want to be a leach after all.
It’s about WHAT they know
You simply can’t be good at every area of business and certainly can’t know all there is to know either. Build a network where you can learn and glean from others. If you are weak in marketing then ensure that you have a marketing guru in your network or perhaps you are new to recruiting, ensure that you have a recruiter in your network. It’s not that you are going to use them or ask for freebies, that would be terrible! You can still learn from the right people and if/when the time comes you can employ their services based on the trust relationship you have cultivated. On the flip side, ensure that you are available to one or two people in your network too and offer support and advice. But I would say, be selective, I would advise against giving away all your knowledge for free to everyone – it could waste a huge amount of time and kill your business in the end.
It’s about HOW well you know them
You are more likely to grow your business through a smaller network of close trusted ‘friends’ than by collecting masses of contact details but not really knowing anyone at all. Take time to really get to know your network. Learn about their hobbies, family or whatever common connection you may have with them so that when you speak to them you can offer sincere follow-up. For example, “How did your son do at their recent football game, I recall you saying how nervous he was to play goalie for the first time.” It wouldn’t take much to remember such details and would make the world of difference if you bothered to not only remember it but also follow up with it the next time you spoke.
How to build your network:
Practice makes perfect
Everything worthwhile takes time. You will find your own style as you go. Try new things, say new things, play around with approaches and conversation techniques each time you go networking. It’s essential to be authentic so don’t compromise that as you practice but you can still learn and grow as a networker and find your flow. Different seasons may demand different things from you too. In one season you may be proactively looking to build up your ‘five’. You would network differently when being on the lookout for the right people but perhaps in another season you would like to focus on building up your newsletter subscribers so you could network with that in mind and offer a little reward to people you meet for doing so. At times, you may just want to get out of the office and chill and so networking can be a very relaxed and social time for you then! Whatever you need, practice makes perfect.
Top Tip: Know why you are networking
It takes time to build relationships and to have the trust of another person. You can’t meet someone once and then ask them for a favour or a sale. People who do this actually damage their reputation and cause people to avoid them. Very occasionally you might meet the right person at the right time and an instant sale results but that is rare and happens by chance not when forced. Not everyone needs what you have to offer right away but in time they might so keep on building the relationship for the relationship itself and not just the sale.
Top Tip: You don’t always have to talk about business – find a common interest to chat about.
Keep in touch consistently
A network is not very useful if it isn’t cared for and maintained. Create a keep in touch system so that you don’t have to constantly think of new ways to keep in touch. Have a combination of different keep in touch methods such as a personal note, a text message, a LinkedIn message and a phone call. You could also use a newsletter and social media. Use what suits them not you, if you know they prefer a call then pick up the phone and if they prefer an email send an email. Keeping in touch can be as simple as forwarding an email saying something like, “I saw this article and thought it may be of interest to you.” Or a text message saying, “Are you watching the England / South Africa game today, wow it’s intense isn’t it?”
Top Tip: Develop a keep in touch system for your network
Give and take It’s not all about what you can get! What you can give is a really important part of networking too and I am not just talking about ‘giving’ your product or service either. You reap what you sow, you get what you give and what goes around comes around. These principles really do apply to networking and your business as much as they do to life in general. Finally, to end the cliché’s off – you get what you pay for. If you are not willing to spend a decent amount on an event you are unlikely to meet the people who can afford your services. Free or cheap events usually attract very small businesses or people who don’t like to invest their money in their network. I say usually because there are free events that are hosted by banks for example that can be very good, so you have to do your homework.
Top Tip: Take an honest look at what you can give to your network At the Women’s Business Club we really believe these things. It is in our culture, our DNA and we know that it works. See what some people are saying about the Women’s Business Club, because it really does work:
“The Women’s Business Club is such a tonic – I haven’t missed a meeting – and really cannot live without my monthly fix!! Thank you!!” – Sally Platt of Millie&belle, Swindon
“A genuine group of amazing women who are each passionate
about their unique business, while at the same time being as helpful and supportive to the rest of the group.” – Melissa Watch of Melissa’s Mobile Therapy, Bristol “
Angela has tailored her expertise around my business and is helping me to lay the foundation
s for successful business growth. Thank you so much for everything you have helped me with so far!” – Jennifer Hall, The Life Buddy, Bath
“This group has helped me link with other people around me giving me good support and new friends. The talks in the network meetings have been inspiring and challenging and I am really glad I joined.” – Fiona Jones, Sunago, Cheltenham