Successful networking has many advantages for businesses. It can help you raise your profile, meet new customers and suppliers, share ideas and knowledge and source finance. Follow these tips to help you build your business network.
1. Be proactive: Research local business networks and events that are relevant to you. Use the Events Finder to search for local upcoming business networking events.
2. Get involved with traditional and digital networking: Engage in both online and face-to-face networking, as this will give you more opportunities to build mutually supportive relationships with key contacts. Networking sites such as LinkedIn can help you make contact with a range of people that could benefit your business. See LinkedIn for business.
Face-to-face networking can speed up communication and provides an opportunity to connect with people in a genuine way. It can also help you keep up-to-date with what’s happening in your local area. See what networks are available to Northern Ireland businesses?
3. Be prepared: For face-to-face networking, bring plenty of business cards and only give them to people who show a real interest in what you do. Dress appropriately for the type of networking event you are attending. If there are specific attendees or speakers you hope to meet and talk to, do your research and prepare well ahead of time.
4. Work on your business pitch: It is worthwhile to decide what key pieces of information about yourself and your business that you would like to focus on. Be enthusiastic and passionate about your business and its potential. See how to pitch to potential investors.
5. Build rapport with the people you meet: Aim to be informative and engaging. Always communicate in a clear and honest way. Think about relevant questions that you can ask once you have introduced yourself – find out more about the people you are networking with and listen carefully to their answers.
6. Always follow-up with potential contacts: When you meet someone new at a networking or industry event, it is important to exchange contact details so you can stay in touch. It is good practice to send the other person a brief email the next day or invite them to connect with you on a site such as LinkedIn. If there is something specific you wish to discuss with a new contact, suggest a follow-up meeting.
In addition, this short video provides an overview of business networking and highlights typical networking opportunities.