Posted at 11:59 AM
One of the most effective ways to grow your business is also one of the oldest: networking. While it may not get as much buzz these days as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, old-fashioned, face-to-face networking is still essential for building a business.
If networking makes you nervous, try these tips to make it easier, more effective and maybe even fun.
1. Set goals for networking. Like any business effort, you need to set measurable goals so you can determine the best networking strategy; such as making X number of new contacts or qualified leads per month.
2. Map out a strategy. Are there key industry trade groups whose conferences you should be attending; would you benefit from local groups such as your Chamber of Commerce? How about specialized groups such as networking organizations for women or minority entrepreneurs?
3. Block out time. Figure out how much time you need to devote to networking to achieve your goals, and how much time you can realistically spend. Depending on your goals, you may want to focus on one organization or spread your efforts among several groups.
4. Be prepared. When you attend networking events, be prepared with plenty of business cards and an elevator pitch -- a brief one- or two-sentence description of your business that clearly conveys what you do and why people should care. Bring a pen for jotting notes on the back of business cards.
5. Mingle. Spending all your time with people you already know negates the purpose of networking. Set a goal to meet a certain number of new people at each event. Networking is kind of like cold calling: The more you do it, the less scary it becomes.
Read the full blog post for more tips on networking.