Lesson #5 – NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

…it’s necessary to build your business!

And I mean calculated, carefully planned and deliberate networking!

1. CALCULATED:

There is an overwhelming abundance of networking opportunities for small businesses out there. Chambers, Meet-Ups, women’s groups, Rotary, etc. I’ve found it’s very important to understand the purpose of each group and decide if it will benefit you and your company OR is it just a social group. I know this sounds a little self-centered, but if you’re a solopreneur, your time is VERY valuable and you need to choose carefully. Make sure the group or groups you choose will have the potential for future customers and/or connections to the customers you need.

2. CAREFULLY PLANNED:

I once decided to take a break from networking. I was busy and networking takes time and money. But I noticed about three months later, my incoming work load had decreased and I hadn’t had a new client for quite awhile.

Now I make it a part of my monthly schedule to have at least one networking opportunity each week. Since I’m new in this city, its even more important to be connecting with people each week. I meet with formal groups twice a month and set up one-on-one meetings the other two weeks. I also specifically ask everyone I meet what groups they have found the most beneficial for their businesses. (Because, after all, we are discussing the TEN LESSONS LEARNED after 20 years of business.)

3. DELIBERATE:

Be PREPARED to network. Bring your business cards, your brochures, even a door prize with your information attached – EVERY TIME you go out. I keep a stash of cards in my car, briefcase and purse – just in case!!! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed out my card to people I meet in random places – the grocery store, doctor’s offices, even at the bank.

PLAN your introduction BEFORE you walk into a room and then be BOLD and walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Don’t worry, they’re thrilled to have someone to talk to about their business too…MAKE SURE YOU ASK! See it’s not all about YOU!

Make a point to meet and exchange cards with as many people as possible if you’re new – or be deliberate about connecting with a specific person who you know could be a potential client. But remember – everyone is a connection to someone who needs your services…so sometimes you can benefit the most from listening to others.

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It’s very important to realize networking takes TIME! Time out of your working hours AND time to develop relationships and build trust. But I know in the long run, networking has been the number one source for new business for me.

Networking is about building trust with people so they will choose to use your services or product¬† – or recommend you to someone else. But it’s YOUR job to attend the right networking opportunities that will benefit you AND clearly offer your product or service to the people there. Choose wisely!

What has your experience been with networking? Has it brought new business your way?

About Becky Bayne

Becky is an independent graphic designer with over 20 years of experience. She and her husband live outside of Nashville, TN where she enjoys creative photography, gardening, and baking for her family.