Networking is the most fun and possibly the cheapest form of marketing. In fact, if you go to events which are free AND put on a spread, you could even have a doggy bag with you and take tasty morsels home for tea – a sort of "credit crunch version" of networking.
Make no mistake though, this is not just chatting, this is marketing. So you need to go about it in the right way if you want to boost your business - you cant just pitch up unprepared.
First impressions count, so dress professionally and turn up with a smile on your face and enthusiasm in your voice - because people buy people.
Of course, you need to have given some thought about clearly putting across what you do in a simple and memorable way. (Remember the person you are talking to may not need your service but may have an opportunity to repeat your business proposition to someone else who does need you). This is where the discipline of attending weekly networking events come into their own – your 60 second elevator pitch just rolls off the tongue given enough practice!
Take something with you in the form of marketing material to give out. This is not necessarily about spending lots of money on marketing; you can get away with a business card or perhaps, one of the cheapest forms of marketing literature, a postcard.
BUT, please do not be tempted to print up and cut out your business card yourselves. Doing this rather indicates that you cant afford £60 for some decent business cards – does that mean you are not good enough to get in customers?
And please try to avoid a hotmail address such as @btinternet.co.uk. I m afraid this rather indicates a man and dog in shed type of business – not a good idea when you want to come over as professional. Dont forget; if you cannot yet afford a website you can register a domain name and get a business e-mail for very little spend indeed.
You are probably not aware, but things like homemade postcards and hotmail address compromise your brand. Now this is a huge subject, but in simple terms you are building a poor perception in the minds of others which may be difficult to shake later. Why is this important? Well the Chartered Institute of Marketing says "brands matter to every company because what they capture is distinctive. This is the primary source of your competitive advantage and the ability to create value"
Finally do yourself a favour and remember - the whole point of networking is to meet as many people as possible, so dont stand in a corner with your mates. And never lose sight of the main aim, -which is to market yourself.
Like most marketing initiatives follow up is vital – this doesnt mean placing the latest business cards that you have gathered on that teetering pile. Almost immediately, and as appropriate either send new contacts an e-mail saying nice to meet them and suggest a coffee to find out more about them or send some marketing literature about yourself – in case this is useful for anyone they know.
NEVER SELL DIRECTLY – this is a big networking no no!
Business Fulcrum Limited. Through consultancy, postcards, copywriting and workshops we have 6 years experience in supporting small start ups who are thinking about marketing but don know where to start; are struggling to communicate their marketing message; are not quite sure of their target audience and wouldnt mind chatting through the thorny problem of pricing. www.businessfulcrum.co.uk