04.05.17

5 ways to network your way to success

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC

Does the mere thought of networking make you run in the other direction? Many small business owners are averse to networking for various reasons. For some, it’s largely in part because they’ve had a poor experience at an event. No one wants to feel like they are bombarded with sales pitches or feel like they’re merely a transaction. Many business owners don’t see attendance as a good ROI on their time because networking members are just trying to get leads from you or sell you something.

It’s too bad that a few bad apples can ruin it for the bunch. There are professionals out there who have mastered the art of effective networking—both on and offline. Successful networking requires a combination of activities to increase the likely ROI on your time, and networking is broader than just going to a networking meeting every Tuesday morning.

Here’s what you can learn from the best:

1)   Come ready to serve. Many small business owners come to events with the objective of finding a solution to a need. That’s not the most constructive approach, though. Instead, ask yourself how you can add value and share your insights. When you give advice, you position yourself as a subject-matter expert, and people are more likely to seek you out when they have a need for your product or service.

2)   Get cozy with the media. Traditional advertising only goes so far. Earned media, as it’s commonly called, can be invaluable. You can get on the local news outlets’ radars by issuing regular press releases. If you can build trust and rapport, over time you might find that you are the person the reporter calls when he/she needs a comment from an expert in your field.

3)   Stay in touch with past customers. Everyone is focused on acquiring new customers, but don’t do this at the expense of turning off your past ones. They can be your biggest brand ambassadors. It is always upsetting to me to see how a bank will pay a new customer $200 to open a new checking account, but offers me nothing even though I have been a customer for decades. What message is my bank sending me?

4)   Content is king. There’s a lot you can do with social media to further your cause. Push out useful and consistent content, i.e. thought leadership, that your target audience might find helpful or beneficial. Be sure to keep the self-promotion to a minimum.

5)   Engage in the small business community. Attend workshops, seminars, awards ceremonies, social media breakfasts and of course events at the NIIC.

If you are a small business owner and have found success with your networking activities, what tricks and tips can you share?

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