Grow Your Business Via Networking

Networking is fantastic for meeting a diverse group of business people and can be used as an effective marketing tool. Paula Wynne shares some of her tips for networking amongst freelancers and home business entrepreneurs and quizzes some networking experts on how to network successfully to get new leads and grow your start up business.

Networking is often mistaken for hard selling and let me tell you, I hated networking until I realised it wasn’t about selling.

Big whopper deals can be made at networking events, but it’s important to attend a networking event without ‘selling’ as your only goal. Until you understand that it is about people and building relations with them over a period of time, you won’t be comfortable in a networking environment.

How to start networking to grown your home business or freelance consultancy

I wasn’t, until it dawned on me that I was there to meet and get to know other like-minded individuals.

With that weight off my shoulders I relaxed and enjoyed myself and since then I have met some fantastic and fascinating people at networking group events, be it lunch or just coffee meetings.

Some of them are now involved in my business, a few advising me on my business journey, a few are expert contributors to my books and others have become really good friends and colleagues.

Networking is purely introductions to people and businesses. Real networking happens after the event

In our Networking Feature we will explore:

  • Offline networking and its benefits 
  • Where and how to start networking
  • Effective techniques for beginners 
  • Online business networking and which platforms to  use

I asked Mary Flavelle, who runs a number of networking events for supporting women in business for her top networking tips.

Mary is multi-talented and has been on Woman's Hour, Radio 4, Radio 5 and more recently presented her own networking show on Marlow FM.

 

Mary Flavelle Networking in Berkshire with SheplcMary Flavelle

Mary Flavelle, SHEplc
Business: SHE plc
Website: www.sheplc.co.uk
Ladies Who Latte: www.ladieswholatte.co.uk
Networking in Berkshire.  

 

Mary's Networking Tips

People buy from people they like. Networking is just like building personal friendships – remember it takes time.

1. First impression counts. There may be new people at your regular events – so don’t treat your business or your appearance casually.

2. Plan for your event, it doesn’t just happen. Be professional on the presentation of your business no matter how much time allowed.

3. Believe in what you do and find the passion for why you do it. Without this backing you up, you may not appear authentic.

4. Honesty and integrity should be highest in your business dealings; people trust people at networking events – do not betray that trust.

5. Follow up contacts within two days of meeting new people to ensure you will always be a warm contact.

Networking may sound scary at first, but try and see it as a fun way of meeting people. You will quickly become part of a ‘special’ business community and you will belong.

First and foremost, be sure to wear comfy shoes. Standing for hours in heels and pointy shoes can be off putting to the conversations at hand. But don’t wear oldies, be aware that many people look down to avoid eye contact and will catch a glimpse of scuffed toes.

 

Common Networking Mistakes

Mary offers up some of the mistakes she has found over the many years she has been widely known as Berkshire's Networking Queen.

  • Mary advocates that you should not be late for an event. Besides it being rude, you could interrupt a speaker and all eyes will be on you - not the way to be remembered.
  • Be careful not to push into groups where chatting is already under way. You can always tell if people are just passing the time of day or doing introductions, but people deep in conversation could be doing business – do not interrupt.
  • Breaking into groups of people is just as hard as getting out of them, so as you become experienced make sure you don’t fall into the same trap.
  • Never close up a group, always leave a space for someone to step in. Make your exit polite, walking away without a farewell is a no- no.
  • Don’t think you are going to make a great contact at your first or second event. Manage your own expectations modestly.

You can't go too far wrong if you stick to Mary's tips and avoid these mistakes.

Online Networking

Try these top tips when you start networking online. This could be using social media sites or netwoking in forums or simply just poking around some networking groups.

1. Get exposure on social media sites.

2. Keep your pitch simple and straight forward.

3. Pick the right target market.

4. Stay alert – be ready to adapt.

5. Use your photograph – people like to see who they're networking with.

6. Seek the opinion of others and do your research.

The whole idea here is to plan to invest the time in your business and your advertising or marketing of yourself. You should be pe prepared to give people the time to get to know you, people will do business with people they know and trust.

If you don't know of any local networking groups or are too plain scared to try it out, why not give online networking a try with iHubbub's online speed networking. Our first session was fantastic with our home business members networking in their slippers.

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