“I’ve been involved in printing for over 18 years – and my Dad used to be a printer too. So naturally, I’m evangelical about printing. But I’m equally as passionate about networking.
Why? Well – it’s a fundamental part of my company’s marketing mix, and it generates tons of opportunities for us. There are so many benefits to networking, and all the successful entrepreneurs and business owners are well aware of them.
“The very first moment you begin to realise your idea is worth pursuing, the first step on the road to success is building a network.” – Virgin founder Richard Branson (Source; Entrepreneur.com).
Well – I agree with that! When I started my company in 2011, I was lucky to have already a very solid support network around me, some of whom I’d already met at networking events that I had attended. By networking with these people, I had got to know them and – importantly – to trust them. I had professional people to bounce ideas off and to help me set up my company, rather than friends and family who, despite their best intentions, are not part of my target market! Thanks to my networking buddies, I was able to hit the ground running.
Networking helps in so many other ways too. It helps with your personal development. How? Well, it forces you out of your comfort zone and into an environment where you can:
Practice your sales pitch,
generate marketing ideas,
raise the profile of your business
and get fired up and motivated.
That last point highlights how important it is for you to manage your energy. Sometimes I’m tired or really busy and look at my diary and think “I really could do without that meeting today” but experience has taught me that once I’m there, I always come away with something because I ensure I make it worth my while.
“It’s very tempting to avoid networking events, but you never know who you’re going to bump into.” – Dragon’s Den star James Caan (Source; LinkedIn).
That’s SO true! Let me give you an example. I’ve been a member of a networking group called Derby Hub for over seven years now, but over five years ago a lady visited – completely at random. She had no intention of joining but was simply in the area, had a couple of hours to kill and found the group on the ‘net. Great! After a short conversation, it became apparent she needed ‘some’ rollup banners, which eventually became ‘loads’! That lady became one of our biggest clients and also, a really good friend. What a bonus! Just think what I would have missed out on (or what a competitor could have gained) if couldn’t have been bothered to go…
Another winning networking technique is making sure you talk to strangers. Don’t just stick to who you know – ask the meeting host for an introduction to someone who’s new to you. The host effectively becomes a third party endorsement! And if you see someone stood on their own, make them feel welcome. They’ll remember you for it, and you’ll gain their trust.
Being consistent with your networking is key too. No matter what time of year, how dark, cold or busy – stay disciplined and attend. It impresses, it gets you known for the right reasons, and it also means that if someone wants to speak with you, they know exactly where you’ll be. You’ll also get a return on your investment because networking is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You have to be in it for the long-haul.
You should also network online. Consider it like a meeting in cyberspace. Follow people on LinkedIn and Twitter. It shows you’re interested and taking an interest. It also helps find common ground for when you do arrange a meeting.
“The best networkers are people who start by seeing what they can give to somebody. It’s not because you want something back, but because you want to help – it’s a state of offering.” – Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group (Source; www.huffingtonpost.co.uk).
And that’s the point. I have a genuine desire to help people and networking is all about what you can do for others. Those who turn up and want to get as many business cards as possible stick out like a sore thumb – and I have no time for them. It’s not just about how you can help people by simply providing others with business contacts and referrals. As an expert in your field, can you offer them advice or a service that they’d find valuable? This can often lead to contra-deals, which can be very beneficial, especially if you’re a start-up business.
Here’s my favourite quote:
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
In other words, if you can’t find a networking group that you like, create one. Just like we did!
The Print Angels are involved in a number of different networking groups and business meetings. If you’d like to be our guest and visit one with us, get in touch on 01332 418377 and we can have a chat to find out which one could be right for you.