Networking is an essential marketing tool.  Ultimately, people buy ‘people’ and therefore we all like to know who we are dealing with, what they are like, how they can help us and whether we trust them.  How can you build an effective relationship with someone if you don’t meet them?

Unfortunately, many people find networking uncomfortable, and possibly unnatural.  However, our confidence and ultimately our success at networking can be dramatically improved by adopting a few simple techniques.

  1. Have your own 30 second advert.  When someone asks you ‘so what do you do?’, be prepared, you probably only have a minute to introduce what you do so make it count!
  2. Attend the right event.  It may sound obvious but if you are providing services to local businesses don’t attend a national meeting of HR managers, and vice versa, if you want business from large organisations, don’t attend a local event targeted at SME’s.
  3. Set yourself some targets.Think about the meeting before hand.  How many people would you like to meet and from which types of organisations?  What information do you hope to gain?  Remember, preparation and planning will increase your chance of success.
  4. Network, don’t sell! The purpose of networking is to mingle with others, get to know them, and find out some information that can be followed up later on.  Save the sales pitch for another time.
  5. Don’t act as if you are desperate for business (even if you are!).  People generally like to talk to interesting, upbeat and confident people.  You certainly won’t attract any new business if you act as though you are desperate.
  6. Stay focussed on why you are there.  Remember you are networking to help to build your business further, so pay attention to the people you meet and what they say.  However, relax and enjoy yourself too!
  7. Be interesting.  People like to talk with interesting people so do some homework.  Plan a couple of topics that you can bring up and that you will enjoy discussing.  Having some simple topics of conversation pre-prepared will help to build your confidence too.
  8. Ask plenty of questions.  In addition, have a number of conversation ‘openers’ pre-prepared.  People love to talk about themselves so ask them what they like to do when they are not at work, what the most amazing place they have ever visited is or simply their favourite pizza topping!
  9. Listen, listen and listen again.  Pay attention to what people are telling you, and search for problems that you can solve.  Follow up with your solution in business time.
  10. Remember that opinions are formed at networking events. People like to know who they are dealing with.  Treat everyone you meet with respect and don’t make negative comments about other people or your competition.

Finally, it is vital to follow up those who you have met.  Send them a simple ‘nice to meet you’ message that is personalised to them.  Interestingly, marketing professionals claim that we need to be exposed to a product approximately 6 times before we remember and recognise it, and the same can probably be applied to people!

With these hints and tips, you can make any networking event a successful one.  good luck!