Written by: Torie Mathis, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
In today's business world, networking is more important than ever. With the proliferation of social media, it's easier than ever to connect with potential customers and clients. However, it's also important to remember that face-to-face interaction is still vital to growing a business. Hiding behind your screen and saying you are "networking" is not going to cut it. In-person networking allows you to build relationships with people in your industry, which can lead to new opportunities.
It can also help you to stay up-to-date on industry trends and developments. Networking can also be a great way to meet new people and expand your professional network. And it's good to get out from behind your computer and mingle with link-minded business owners.
Whether you're attending a trade show or your local chamber happy hour, taking the time to the network can pay off in a big way.
Building a business network of profitable partnerships isn't that difficult to do. It does, however, take some planning, organizing, and possibly getting out of your comfort zone, at least at first.
Once you get out there and start rocking your power networking plan, you'll see yourself gaining traction toward your business goals, and you just might start to look forward to your weekly networking events.
Here are the 8 secrets to building a powerhouse network.
1. Come Prepared
Before setting foot in an event, do some homework. It helps to know about the event, who is putting it on, and who will be attending. By knowing more about the people, you'll meet, you can be prepared to connect with them and how to present yourself in the best light.
Inc offers these homework tips before you show up to any networking event:
Have goals for the event
Research who you want to meet
Reach out in advance
Plan what you'll wear
Create a strategy for getting contact info
Have your elevator pitch ready
With a little prep work, your networking events will feel more comfortable and effective.
2. What Makes You Unique
Look past your area of expertise and successes and spend time figuring out what makes you unique. When you understand your unique strengths, you can better communicate this when you are at networking events. Think about the unique ways you get results with those you work with.
"Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, your uniqueness, what you stand for."
– Christine Comaford-Lynch
3. Talk about Benefits
Rather than going on and on about what you do, make the focus of your conversations on the results you get for others. Just like when talking about your service and products, you want to talk about the benefits, not the features of working with you. People want to know how you can help them. What results you can get for them? So be sure to frame your discussions on benefits and results.
"The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person's needs ahead of their own."
– Bob Burg
4. Have a Plan
Once you start frequently attending networking events, you'll meet a lot of new people, and all those people can be hard to keep straight. Figure out a plan that will work for you to remember people and details about them. You can take notes and create a file of details on their business and ideas of how you could help them or who you could introduce them to. The key is to create a system that works for you and that you will be consistent with.
5. Become a Storyteller
Stories help to make you more engaging, relatable, and memorable, and that's powerful when you are networking. When you get good at telling stories, you can talk about who you are and what you do in a way that grabs people's attention. Start to work on your stories and have a few in your back pocket about your business, how you started, working with customers, and other parts of your business life.
These stories will get better over time as you hone in on what is interesting to your audience, what questions they ask you, and how you can make them more detailed and entertaining.
Hubspot gives these storytelling dos and don'ts:
Know your audience
Leave room for imagination
Overcomplicate the story
Focus too much on yourself
Skim over details
6. Make It A Priority
Continually look for opportunities to get social and attend networking events regularly. Try to fit in at least one networking event each week, and make them a priority in your schedule. Think about building your network whenever you are out and about, whether at an event or just at the grocery store.
"Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority." – Herminia Ibarra
7. Punch Your Fear
It's okay to be a bit nervous about attending events and socializing with a bunch of people you don't know. Just like most things, it takes a little getting used to. Just like if you were to run a meeting or training event, you'd be nervous at first, but you'll gradually get better at it. So don't think networking isn't for you or that you can't do it because you're an introvert; it just takes a little time to get a feel for it.
Create a practice where you can warm yourself up before each event and get into a social mood, so you're pumped and ready to go meet people.
"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." – Brene Brown
8. Enjoy Yourself
Although you're there with business in mind, have a good time with your networking. When you're having fun, others will enjoy engaging with you. Think of it as a social outing where you get to indulge in a favorite hobby (your business) with like-minded, interesting people. If you can flip events to being fun, you'll increase your motivation to get out there and network, and people will notice your enthusiasm.
So, what are you waiting for?
Get out there and start networking! These eight tips will make the process more effective and more fun. And who knows – your next great business idea might come from a casual conversation with someone you just met. What have you got to lose?
Torie Mathis helps entrepreneurs, like you, use digital marketing to grow their business without wasting time, money, or sanity. She is a best-selling author, Army veteran, speaker + trainer, and digital marketing coach. You don't need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. You don't even need a lot of time. What you need is to be SMART. Torie hosts SMART AF, a show for non-techy entrepreneurs looking to grow their small business, with her husband Sean Mathis, and is the creator of SMART AF Magazine. Learn digital marketing for your small business at toriemathis.com
Torie Mathis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Torie Mathis helps entrepreneurs, like you, use digital marketing to grow their business without wasting time, money, or your sanity. She is a best-selling author, Army veteran, speaker + trainer, and digital marketing coach. She'll show you how don't need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. In fact, you don't even need a lot of time. What you need is to be SMART. Torie hosts SMART AF, a show for non-techy entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, with her husband Sean, fellow entrepreneur and founder of the Miles Through Time Automotive Museum. She is also the creator of SMART AF Magazine and the Smart Arsenal. You can learn digital marketing for your small business with Torie at toriemathis.com