It has taken you 6 months to finalize your business idea and you are ready for the world to know about your products or services. You continue to practice your infamous elevator pitch in the car on the way to the networking event over and over again. As soon as you step foot in the door you get nervous and your palms get sweaty. Just when you are about to take off running down the hallway someone spots you and calls your name.
This is the scenario for many of us when we first start networking for our businesses. Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is not “a field of dreams”; if you create it they will not just come to utilize your business services. You have to network and make people aware of the products and services you offer. After meeting me once you would assume I was an expert in this area but even I have a hard time with walking up to complete strangers and start handing out my business cards. Because I do not have the option of sitting back while watching the money roll in, I have to make it a point to network every week. I had to create a networking plan for myself in order for each networking event to be rewarding. It is important to make strategic connections and follow up. Below is the networking plan I created for myself. You can come up with your own plan or feel free to adopt my plan into your networking.
1. Research networking events and groups in your area
There are thousands and thousands of networking groups. It is important that you attend events that draw your target market. It makes no sense for you to attend if your target market is not going to be in attendance. There are great websites like http://www.meetup.com and http://www.eventbrite.com that offer networking events at a glance.
2. Set objectives and goals for each networking event
The objective of attending networking events is to network and connect with potential clients or obtain resources. Before you attend the next networking event decide on the objectives and goals for the event. For example, when I attend a networking event I make sure my objectives are clear. Today I will hand out 15 business cards and obtain 10. Another example: Today I plan to acquire 3 new clients. Whatever your objective make sure you have a clear understanding of why you are there.
3. Take good notes.
After shaking hands and passing out cards to 15-20 people in one night it is easy to forget detailed information about the person you just met. Take the time to write a few notes about the connection. You can utilize the back of their business card (I have found that people do not get offended) or take a small notebook to jot a few notes down.
4. Follow up, Follow up, Follow up
I know this sounds silly but how many times have you attended a networking event and felt great about all the connections you made. Then as soon as you get home you put the new set of business cards in the pile with other business cards you have collected from events. Follow up is key to achieving the objectives and goals you set in place.