Networks and networking events vary in their approach and atmosphere but generally the effective and enjoyable ones are less about having a room full of sellers pushing their business cards at you and more about relationship building.
At Forward Ladies we firmly believe in creating a nurturing environment that enables meaningful connections to be made that will form the foundations of lasting business relationships.
For small businesses, time is in short supply so time taken out of the business has to be put to great use and deliver tangible benefits. Regular consistent networking presents a fantastic opportunity to potential customers whilst connecting you with other small business owners who can share knowledge and experience, and offer practical support and opportunities. It also provides the opportunity for you to hear valuable advice from expert speakers. This will open up a whole world of contacts and opportunities, from both within and outside your industry, which you may otherwise struggle to access – yet is vital for growing any small business.
So here are 3 ways to grow your business through networking:
1. Give referrals if you want to receive referrals
Constantly think about the people you meet and how you might be of service to them. If you read an article you think someone might find useful, then why not send them a link. Invite them to your own events or events that you think they will find valuable. It’s just another opportunity to establish contact and to reconnect with old contacts. I’m a big believer in the power of reciprocity.
You’ll only get what you ask for. The businesses I know who get the most referrals through their networks ask for it. Seize every opportunity to explain what you do because sometimes people don’t really understand what you do and they can’t give referrals until they do. It’s ok to keep repeating yourself. Be specific when asking for referrals, it makes it easier for people to identify opportunities on your behalf. Say thank you when people do pass on contacts and make introductions or referrals. They will appreciate it and be encouraged to do even more. An email of thanks is great but a thoughtful note, card or inexpensive gift will be more memorable.
3. Have a system in place
It’s difficult to do all this without having a good contact management system in place. People will just fall off your radar without a good relationship management system. A good old spreadsheet can also do the job. The systems that work are the ones you use, so it’s not about the bells and whistles. Use whatever system works for you.
These 3 steps have helped me establish my business and also attract the clients needed to scale it up. Remember your network has a direct impact on your net-worth, so invest in it and it’ll pay great dividends in time.
About the author
Griselda Togobo is an entrepreneur, engineer and chartered accountant. She is also the owner and managing director of Forward Ladies, a professional networking community whose mission is to advance women in business, to tackle female under-representation in business leadership. She was recently named as one of the Top 100 ‘Yorkshire’s Leading Women’.