Building relationships with allied financial services professionals is one smart way to help boost your brand and, although social media-based networking, such as LinkedIn and Facebook business groups, can help with initial introductions, there are also a variety of face-to-face business networks to help you meet new people.
Depending on your own personality and business goals, the reality is that some of these networking events will suit your needs – others may not be as effective.
But even when you find the right group of people who align with your business vision and ethics, understanding how to make the most of those networking opportunities can be the difference between business failure and success.
How to network successfully
Networking is not a magic potion that automatically delivers to your business with the flash of your business card.
Handing out your business card to every single person you are introduced to is not a positive strategy – in fact, it can actively turn people away from your business.
Once you understand some practical ways to improve your networking results, you will make business networking meetings an important part of your weekly calendar – and you will learn that being more discerning about who you hand your card out to can work in your favour.
6 tips for better networking
1. Be authentic
Quality networking is about nurturing quality relationships. By being genuine, you are more likely to make a meaningful connection.
By being yourself, and showing people who you really are, you will find it easier to build the trust that will inspire your business connections to refer clients and colleagues your way.
2. Find different ways to network
Rather than stick with just one networking group, it’s important to visit other networks that expose you to different types of business people.
Seeing the same faces each week does have some value, as it helps you build those long-term relationships that can lead to ongoing referrals, but it’s always good to mix it up with events that connect you with new faces, in order to give your business pitch a wider audience.
3. Focus on your business goals
Depending on your ideal client, you may find it valuable to attend networking functions where other professionals gather in the hope of building rapport with potential alliance partners.
4. Master your pitch
Most networking groups give members and visitors an opportunity to pitch their business to the room and this time is often brief – as little as 30-60 seconds. To make the most of this opportunity, preparation is important.
The key information is your name and business name and with the time you have left, try to tell a story that highlights the problems you solve for your clients.
People connect with stories and it can help you stand out from a pack of people merely listing their services.
It’s important to get your message out clearly and concisely – your audience needs to understand what you do and how they might be able to help you with an ideal connection.
5. Listen closely
Business networking isn’t just about you. Rather than approach each new networking opportunity as a chance to sell yourself directly, by taking the time to listen to what other people need, you’ll show yourself to be someone who cares – and have the foundations for a great business relationship.
6. Find opportunities to refer to other business colleagues
By finding opportunities to refer to others, you are on your way to becoming the most valuable business networker there is – the connector.
Establishing yourself as someone who listens to what other people say, and can link them up with other service providers they may need a connection to, you will help yourself become top of mind.
When those people you refer to do get caught in those backyard barbecue or business meeting conversations with someone talking about a networking opportunity and wondering who they can speak to, they’ll think of you and your business – and pass on your details.
Make sure your online presence matches your networking presence
Networking can be a powerful addition to your marketing toolbox. To give yourself the best chance of success, it’s critical to be ready.
Having a good looking business card is one thing, but if the first thing people do is type in your website address and see a sloppy looking site that doesn’t reflect your professional image, or a LinkedIn profile summary that lists out-dated career positions (and often the competitors to your own business who you might have worked with before you went out on your own), your networking efforts may be wasted.
By ensuring every aspect of your online marketing is on-track with your business vision and the calibre of clients you want to do business with, you can help your next appearance at a networking function yield positive results.
Barry Oxley is the founder of Lending Specialists.