It can be daunting when first starting out in business. Many ideas and plans run through your head to discover the best way to get your name out there. Adverts, Flyers, Website, Directories........Networking.
I have recently started in business and from past experience one of my first ways to communicate and connect with other businesses was to attend networking meetings.
I mocked up a 4 month diary and searched the internet for upcoming events, early mornings, lunch time events, coffee meetings and evenings too. I logged in three to four a week, I was networking mad!
Networking is a lot more than just turning up, drinking coffee and talking to others about your business. It's about listening, learning and building trusted relationships with other local businesses. These will be people your can refer your customers to, people you can call upon for advice and a virtual directory that you can refer to at all times.
It is important to plan before attending networking events. You will need to have prepared a 60 second overview of you and your business, you will need business cards and other marketing materials and you will also need something to take notes as you never know who you may bump into.
I have learnt a lot from networking and found it by far the best way to gain new customers, i have also learnt a lot about other people that own businesses and who they really are behind the business.
Sometimes you can feel quite intimidated by a room full of business names as they go round one by one gleaming with confidence and pride as they read their 60 seconds. Initially it is really hard to overcome the thought that it doesn't feel comfortable being in this room, you have just started out and everyone looks so polished and professional.
I can guarantee that almost everyone in the room felt this way when they first started networking and it still feels the same way now when you attend a new group. Once you begin to talk and connect with people and find out about the person and the story behind their business you will soon see that they are much just like you and me.
In conclusion and what I really am trying to put across is that everyone should try networking, try different events and connect with the local businesses around you. It can be lonely in business but when you have built a network of people you no longer feel that its just you.