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Networking is one of those things that a lot of people do not enjoy. As much as you may have claimed to potential investors that you are a people person, the reality is that networking is a lot more than meeting people and exchanging business cards with them.
It is about cultivating that first encounter into a vibrant, fertile relationship that is mutually beneficial. This is much easier said than done. However, it is worth spending time and money doing it because it really works.
For example, a person who runs a small travel business somewhere in the United States might decide to go to a national convention. This is a great idea because they can meet lots of other business people and start working together. If they each agree to advertise the other’s company and help organize tours or holidays to different parts of the country, they can both get more customers, become known around the country, and most importantly, make more money. As this example demonstrates, it takes a lot of hard work to actually start seeing the benefits of these sorts of relationships. This is what you have to do if you want your company to grow though.
No one starts out running a national company. It is simply impossible. To have customers all over the country, you need to market yourself successfully for years. The invention of the internet and the boom in e-commerce (which is worth about $22 trillion) has made it slightly easier to reach people in various locations. Most Americans now have smartphones and use the internet, so it no longer matters quite as much if the store is at the end your street or the other side of the country. In any case, you still need to build a reputation with your customers so that they will trust you.
To grow your business, networking is necessary. One great way of doing it is going to trade shows and conventions, but you can also organize your own. This gives you a much greater degree of control when it comes to how your message and brand will be communicated and how often. That is not to say, however, that if you organize your own event, you should bombard your guests with your company all the time. Subtlety is key.
If you are thinking of hosting your own event, you will want to embrace a few creative ways of raising your company’s profile. If you are already wondering How to Get the Most Out of Your Promotional Products, you are already asking the right questions.
The answer is more complex.
You should certainly make them free. Charging for cool gadgets or accessories with your brand on it is not going to work. Companies like Nike managed to do it because they signed incredibly lucrative endorsement deals with figures like Michael Jordan. Another thing to consider is offering something that they will actually use once the conference is over. USB memory sticks are pretty popular, as are pens. However, thinking of something innovative and practical is a good idea.
Trying to capitalize on trends is not always the best idea because they often fade just as quickly as they rose. If you do not want your product to become passe and faintly embarrassing in a few weeks or months, go for something with lasting value. Also, spend a little money ensuring that the quality of the product is good. If it breaks not long after the person starts using it, it will create the opposite impression to the one you intended.
Once you’ve got everyone together and promoted your business in an appropriate but not overwhelming way, think about what events you will host.
They too need to have lasting value. They should also be rich in detail. The information that you produce should not be something that your guests will have heard about before. That is why it is a good idea to think about inviting speakers from your local university to give a talk about their area of expertise.
Another cool thing you can do is host a competition with a cash prize. This can be for the most creative idea or invention that will help to solve a local or national problem.
Every business owner is interested in making their life easier. If you showcase products that will help them do that, they will give you their attention in response.
A lot of people feel nervous about going to networking events because small talk is almost guaranteed. To put their minds at ease, you need to come up with ice breaking activities.
Instead of printing off name tags for each participant at your event, why not provide them with blank stickers and let them write their own name in a way that will reflect their personality. If you meet someone and you notice that they drew a picture, for instance, you can start talking about it.
The conversation will move on to more relevant things eventually, but the start is important. You can also invite the participants to write on a post it note their hopes and ambitions for the event. This will give everyone a new perspective about what they want. If people have convergent interests, they may start talking about business and how they can help each other out.
Not everything needs to be about business. Hosting an event that is purely social but inviting the business people you are interested in meeting works well.
A man named Robbie Samuels wanted to get Boston’s advocacy community together, but instead of hosting a business conference, he started Socialising for Justice (SoJust). Twice a month, his members meet up and do fun things like bowling or drinking cocktails. It worked, and he now has a vibrant organization that hosts events that people actually want to attend.
Networking is about knowing what people want and giving it to them so that you can all benefit.