Here are our top tips for networking.
1. Keep social media conversations casual, just like if you were having a conversation with a friend or acquaintance in the real world.
2. Once you land a sale, your job is just beginning, not ending. Your current client base is your network and you should never stop cultivating these folks, whether it is introducing a new product or service or asking for referrals, do not drop the ball on keeping constant contact.
3. Take advantage of any and all social gatherings. You do not need to join a BNI and/or spend lots of money on attending expensive networking groups and events. If you are operating on a shoestring budget in particular it is important to remember networking happens in every social encounter, anywhere you are. Grabbing a bite to eat, sit at the bar and strike up a conversation with the person next to you, join a local meetup group, stop by a farmer's market for some organic, local produce and don't forget to bring business cards and be prepared to make some new friends.
4. Be a connector by hosting events of your own! Bring together wonderful people with similar interests by organizing a brunch, having a summer bbq, scheduling a happy hour or starting a meet-up group yourself. There is no harm in taking initiative and being a leader in your community. Attendees will appreciate the thought and potentially reward you with referrals.
5. When you are attending a networking event and you are able to view the attendees, do a little research before-hand. Think about the meaningful conversations and the strong first impressions you will make when you already know a little about the people you are meeting.
6. Don't forget your follow-up! Spend $20 on a nice thank you gift for new clients and also clients that send referrals your way. A little appreciation can take you a long way.
7. Allow people to be human! We are all busy and important. Do not become discouraged if you reach out and someone does not get right back to you. Try again in a week with maybe another type of communication. For instance, if they did not get back to you by phone the first time, send an email a week later. In networking, persistence is key without being too pushy. Find your balance and thrive.