Networking is as important, if not more so, for businesses as it is for an individual. You should strive to create a network of business contacts, both of potential clients and of potential vendors, who will benefit your enterprise. But, you should concentrate on the high value of business contacts rather than sheer numbers. A large number of contacts who don’t provide you with much value can be all but useless and is not worth the effort.
Online Strategies for Making Business Contacts
Both your website and the use of social media are great venues for developing and strengthening business contacts. Your website should have a feature for visitors to interact with your company, say in the form of a questionnaire. You can also establish an opt-in email newsletter for potential business contacts that will help to establish you as a thought leader in your industry. In this way potential contacts will seek you out, making networking easier.
On social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can find people you think may add value to your business and connect with them. Be sure to be available to answer questions as needed and separate your business social media presence from your personal one.
Your online strategy will be the springboard for the next step in establishing and strengthening a business contact, the face to face meeting.
Meeting a Business Contact in Person
Entrepreneur Magazine points out that as powerful as the Internet is, nothing compares to a face-to-face meeting. When you meet someone offline, you can size the other person up, taking note of nuances such as body language and tone of voice, as well as the greater degree of interactivity that speaking to someone in person entails.
When you are travelling on business and find yourself in the same city as an online contact, request a face-to-face meeting, over lunch or coffee. Then you can go more in depth about how your company can benefit the other person’s and how his or hers can help yours. When the meeting is over, always exchange business cards and follow-up by phone or email thanking the other person for his or her time with a request, if relevant, that you do business at an appropriate time and place. Always log the names of your offline business contacts with notes about what kind of value they represent.
Attending Conventions and Exhibitions
Industry conferences and exhibitions are an incredible opportunity because you will be in the same location as hundreds, perhaps thousands of like-minded people who are either in your industry or have an interest in it. As with other travel situations, be sure to set up offline meetings with your online contacts.
An essential part of establishing more business contacts at an exhibition is your company’s exhibition stand. The stand should be custom built to provide individuality and should look as attractive as possible, to attract the most traffic with your company’s logo prominently displayed. Informational literature should be readily accessible for people to pick up. A person should be at the stand at all times to answer questions and to exchange business cards. Also, if you have a product that can be demonstrated, be sure to have it there.
You should also have at least one person wandering the exhibit hall seeking out other stands belonging to companies with whom you would like to make a connection. Have that person talking to people, exchanging business cards and collecting whatever informational literature is available.
Finally, you should compile a log as previously described of everyone you encountered at the exhibition or convention. Make a follow-up call or email, thanking them, and if it is appropriate, set up another meeting in case you and the other person find that a business relationship will be of mutual benefit.
Do you use any of the networking methods mentioned above? Let us know in the comments section below...