In this month’s guest blog, we hear from the fabulous June Cory, founder of pay-per-click ad agency, My Mustard. June shares her expert advice with us on how to make networking work for your business. Over to you, June…
So, what’s so good about networking? ‘Not a lot’ you might say. But why? We love networking and 30% of my company’s new business comes through the various networking groups we either host or attend. In fact, our networking contacts, both recent and past, represent an astonishing 80% of our yearly turnover.
Networking has been the very essence of business for centuries. We’ve come a long way from ‘the old boy network’; it’s no longer about what club you belong to or what school you went to. But it’s also not about bluffing through your 60 seconds and then handing out business cards. It’s about meeting like-minded people, then recognising and creating potential opportunities and relationships.
- Your best ally in a networking situation is your mental attitude. If your heart sinks at the prospect of networking then you won’t be able to really engage with the other people in the room – a terrible waste of your time and money.
- Don’t dismiss anyone. Everyone in the room will know, at the very least, 100 other business contacts. Sell through the room, not to the room. In one of my earliest networking experiences I met an accountant, an older gentleman who clearly didn’t want to be there. I asked him for his business card (usually a typical networking exit line) and as he opened his wallet, I saw a picture of three young children. I asked if they were his lovely grandchildren and immediately he beamed, opened up, and never forgot that I was interested in him. He subsequently introduced me to my biggest client.
- Don’t just stand with the same group of people or lurk in the corner; keep on the move. Introduce yourself with a handshake – physical contact and eye contact really work – and ask the other person something about themselves.
- Some network groups like you to do the often dreaded ‘elevator pitch’ – that 60 seconds of fun where you tell the room who you are and what you do. But when was the last time you remembered someone from their elevator speech? Thought so. Make it easier by writing in 100 words what you do, what value you add, your location, your ideal client introduction and your USP (‘unique selling point’), and rehearse it beforehand. Don’t read it out from a piece of paper or a phone, as you can’t maintain eye contact, and if you can’t talk about your business confidently then why should you expect anyone else to?
- Before you go to an event, identify a goal. Three decent chats? One hot lead? A potential supplier? An introducer or advocate?
- If the network group invites guests, make a point of introducing yourself to them. Afterwards, phone them, email them, or ask for a 1-2-1 meeting. At the very least, ask them to connect with you on LinkedIn.
- Always be gracious to the people you meet. It’s common courtesy.
- Track your results. Your time is money, so measure what you get out of networking.
- Most of all, be patient. I recently signed up a client I met in 2009.
Good networking takes practice but the more you do, the better you get. There are numerous business network groups in Hertfordshire and you’ve probably tried at least one of them. Go mad, try another! The rewards can be huge and, given that those ‘old boys’ did pretty well out of networking, isn’t it about time you did too?
June Cory, My Mustard Pay Per Click Advertising Agency, www.mymustard.co.uk