SCORE gives advice on strategic networking to grow your business

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Question: As a small business owner who wears many hats, how can I maximize my investment of time and money by networking?

To respond: Often those who network think “the more the better” when it comes to attending networking events. Unfortunately, this approach rarely works. What works is being strategic about where and why you decide to attend a networking event. As a small business owner, time management is a key skill and deciding where and when to spend your networking time is essential. Answer these simple questions and turn regular networking into strategic networking.

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Is the event or host group strategic for your organization? Thinking strategically about everything you do to successfully grow your organization understands where you invest your time in networking. Being strategic means that you constantly ask yourself if something about the event or hospitality group is strategic as a source of new revenue, important contacts, referral sources or vital information for the growth of your your organization.

Are you a member of the organization? If you’re a member of the organization, you’re more likely to catch the attention of staff and board members at the event. If the organization hosting the event is worth it, they will have a proactive membership committee and board of directors eager to help you make meaningful connections and engage at a higher level. involvement and sponsorship.

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Are you active in the organization? The best way to benefit from networking is to be very active in one or two organizations. By doing this, you’ll build momentum because more people will get to know you, know your work, and be eager to help you build profitable relationships. Being actively involved or engaged can mean being a board member, joining a committee – especially the membership committee – which is a great way to meet people and target those you want to meet, or joining a membership program. education sponsored by the organization. Active involvement can also mean committing to regular attendance at the organization’s events and supporting the organization financially as a sponsor.

Will your target customers and referral sources be there? If your target customers and referral sources are unlikely to attend the event, you might want to rethink if it’s worth it.

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With these simple guidelines, average networking becomes strategic networking, generating more profitable connections, qualified leads, and new business for your organization.

Mark McGregor, Speaking of Hearts, offers some networking tips to consider:

1. It’s the quality of connections, not the quantity.

2. Wait for someone to ask you for your card instead of just handing it out – the quality of connections improves dramatically.

3. Forget the “what can I learn” attitude and adopt a “what can I learn from others” attitude.

4. Listen, listen, listen – take an interest in others and focus on what they are saying, then they will be interested in you.

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5. Work on building relationships, not just contacts.

6. Focus on the first recommendation. The referrer will follow you.

7. Use stories to demonstrate why others should recommend you.

8. Be specific about the type of reference you are looking for.

9. Actively engage in the networking process, don’t wait for it to happen to you — it may not.

10. Thank the person who initiated the referral within 24 hours of receiving it.

11. Arrive early and volunteer to help set up. You can start your networking by helping organize the event.

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12. Networking can happen anytime, anywhere, not just at formal networking events.

13. There will be a networking moment where it will be your turn to describe who you are, what you do and what you offer your target market. Prepare with an elevator pitch that isn’t “commercial,” but clear, concise, and focused.

14. Be ready to network by having something interesting to say in response to others’ dialogue. What is the last book you read, the movie you saw or the vacation spot that marked you the most? It’s about being interested in others and having something interesting to say.

15. It doesn’t matter what happens if you hook up with someone and a relationship has started, following up since the exchange at the networking event was just the start.

This SCORE tip was provided by Jane Renzi. Jane is Principal of Jane Renzi & Associates, Marketing and Business Development Consulting, and Marketing [email protected], www.janerenziassoc.com, 774-801-2945. For free, confidential mentoring, contact Cape Cod SCORE at 508-775-4884, [email protected] or www.capecod.score.org.

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