Strategies for successful networking
Learn how you can find business connections by networking online and in-person. Melinda Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady, is one of America's leading small business experts and is a paid contributor for Wells Fargo.
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Hi. I'm Ed Lawler for the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. Today we're talking with Melinda Emerson, the SmallBizLady and author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. She's highlighting strategies for successful networking. Thanks for being here, Melinda.
My pleasure, Ed.
How can people improve their networking skills?
Networking is like riding a bike. The more you do it, the better you will become at it. So just force yourself to do it. Make yourself attend three networking events every month.
To find out where and with who to network, start by joining your industry association. Look into your local Chamber of Commerce, too. Many have small business groups and events.
Next, you should investigate if there's a meet-up group for your industry, or another association where your target customer meets regularly. This might lead to opportunities to attend trade shows, and industry-wide conferences where you'll get even more opportunities to network.
Then you need to start networking online. Start by defining and searching for the key words that are important to your business. My favorite tools are wordtracker.com, ubersuggest.org, and Google has a keyword-planning tool as well. Once you have your five top keywords, set up Google Alerts so that you can track websites related to your interests and your industry. On Twitter, you should use hashtag searches with your keywords to find people and organizations having conversations you want to join.
That's great Melinda. How can people be successful at in-person networking opportunities?
Get to the event early. The reception really is the event.
Find out who you want to meet in advance. Your goal should be to meet only five people at any networking event. You only have time to follow-up with five people, otherwise you could just spread yourself too thin. Have plenty of business cards, but only give one out if you are asked for one, or if someone gives you one.
If you're introverted, be sure to research the attendee list and see if you can get someone to make key introductions. That can help. To spark a conversation, think about something you can compliment someone on, like jewelry or a tie. You can always strike up a conversation about current events, sports, kids, vacations. Just be sure to avoid controversial topics such as religion or politics.
Lastly, dress how you want others to perceive you and your business. You cannot bring your A game in your B suit. Dress appropriately and in your best attire when you're attending networking events. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.
I think that gives people a lot of insight about what to do at an event. Now what about after? How should people stay in touch?
Be sure to use social media to connect with everyone you meet. Stay connected beyond the LinkedIn invite though. You want to reach out to your new contacts at least once a quarter to build rapport. If you think you might have a hot prospect, reach out to them within 48 hours to schedule a follow-up conference call or meeting.
Also, take notes based on your interaction. You'll want to remember details of your conversation, so write down a few notes on the back of your contact's business card to help you remember later. If you put a few notes down, it will also make your follow-up a lot more personal.
Thanks for all these actionable steps, Melinda.
And thank you for joining us for this segment of the Business Insight Series. To learn more about how Wells Fargo Business Banking can help you, visit wellsfargo.com/biz. In the meantime, we wish you continued success.