A common problem business owners face is that they don’t think about why they network.
As important as developing your networking skills, you need to think about whether you are using the network event as a social outlet or in a purely business context. The Bangalow Business Women Networking Group being a women’s only event makes it easier to combine both social and business. And that’s OK, especially if your a solo business – getting out of your consulting rooms or off the farm and meeting like minded women and potential new customers are both wonderful reasons to network.
Getting clear on the reasons for networking, helps you prepare for the right mindset for networking and prepare your 30 second introduction- the answer to that inevitable question “what do you do”? Also important for people who are new to networking to research the event they plan to attend to see if it’s relevant as an audience for their business product or services.
Networking isn’t just about attending events. Networking should be part of your authentic marketing plan. It’s not something that you should just do at events either – talk to everybody about your business products and services including your neighbours, family and friends. That can be some of the best networking you can do – word of mouth can be very powerful.
Beating the fear
Approaching strangers and striking up conversation can be easy for some but absolutely nerve wracking for a majority of others. BBW’s resident MC, Geraldine Barkworth owner of Goddess of Public Speaking, says small business owners can overcome this through coaching and practice, especially in a safe supportive environment.
Public speaking covers every kind of speaking and connecting situation you have with other human beings. Being able to articulate who you are and your unique message with presence, ease and authenticity, allows you to remain in integrity, whether with one on one, a group, audience, impromptu or a prepared presentation.
Follow up promising conversations promptly, but maintain the friendly tone rather than sending reams of information about your business.
You can now follow up within 24 hours by sending cards in the mail, and this is now easy using online services like Cards4You. People get too many emails a day, so a card stands out. It’s a big mistake to not follow up, so schedule time in your diary for those follow-ups.
Networking isn’t confined to conferences, breakfast events or industry trade fairs. Increasingly, small business owners can find opportunities online by interacting via forums and social networking sites. Social networking can prove a valuable tool for small businesses, as long as they contribute properly. Online gives you an amplification of your business that you can’t get face-to-face. But it’s about finding the right channels and contributing and adding value to online communities, rather than just talking. The Bangalow Business Women’s Networking Group Facebook page is a great place to start. You should first listen and observe and understand the relationship dynamics of others. Find your authentic voice online rather than a polished public relations tone because people see right through that.
Using Bangalow Business Women’s network as a tool to build your business
Networking events are a great way to connect with potential referral sources like the one happy client who tell twenty others how great you are. Donating an event door prize gives you a priceless opportunity to connect to a wider audience, earning you free promotional advertising on our BBW Facebook page and the opportunity to introduce your business to those attending the event.
Finally, don’t just attend, seek an opportunity to speak about yourself and your business vision at one of our events, or better still volunteer your time in organising the BBW, it’s a great way to raise your business profile, work with other skilled individuals and make new friends.
The Bangalow Business Women’s events are held every second Thursday of the month in Bangalow. To join the mailing list or find out about our next scheduled event, you can either join the group on Facebook or email Teresa Bassham.
About the author: Teresa Bassham is an Authentic Marketing Coach and Director of Zenworkz Authentic Marketing. Teresa is passionate about helping small businesses create the right marketing and achieve transformational results.
All or parts of this blog are able to be published with permission from the author – provided that the author is acknowledged and a link is given to the original source blog.
This blog is original content influenced by years of experience within the Australian small business culture and may not be applicable to other countries small business cultures.