Networking is simply the effort you put into building business relationships. As a retailer, this may be the most important thing you do to grow your business. Done right, networking can help you create connections with potential customers, suppliers, and partners. To get started, here are 10 growth-focused networking tips.
1 – Focus on Quality Over Quantity
When you start looking for networking opportunities, you won’t struggle with any shortages. There are plenty of networking groups, events, seminars, etc. You’ll find networking opportunities related to your niche, location, target audience, both online and offline.
You might be tempted to be present in as many places as possible. After all, what better way to make great connections? Unfortunately, this approach often results in your creating a lot of rather meaningless relationships. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
2 – Prepare Great Questions
When you attend networking events, you’ll often be able to learn who the other attendees are ahead of time. Do your research. It’s worth the effort. Determine who you want to connect with, then learn as much as possible about them. Show a genuine interest.
Come prepared with relevant questions to break the ice, and get others to talk about themselves. This is a great way to learn more about other businesses, and to identify opportunities to create mutually beneficial relationships.
3 – Create Separate And Complete Social Network Profiles
In retail, business owners and CEOs are often the ‘face’ of their companies. This can cause the line between personal and business to blur a bit. While being the personality behind your business is a positive thing, it’s also something you want to be able to control. This is why separating your personal and professional personas online is key.
By doing this, you maintain a personal presence that you can use to connect with friends and family. You also create a professional presence that you can cultivate as you need in order make connections and develop professional relationships.
4 – Be Prepared to Communicate The Value You Bring to Others
Networking is about reciprocating. Sometimes the best approach is to offer help before you ask. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking people, ‘How can I help you?’ Here are a few ways you can become a valuable network contact:
- Offer to introduce people to one another
- Extend invitations to events to up and comers
- Offer to teach a skill
- Provide constructive feedback on blog and social media posts
- Link to relevant content created by potential network contacts
- Find articles you think would be helpful to people and forward them
- Recommend them to your customers
5 – Take Advantage of International Networking Opportunities …
With so much retail being done online, your customers, vendors, and suppliers could come from anywhere in the world. Stay competitive by networking on a global scale. Find networking events that draw attendees from all over the world. Know your target markets, and take the time to learn about business and cultural practices.
Finally, be prepared to communicate effectively. Don’t let language differences diminish your ability to make connections with others. Pick Writers reviews the largest translation companies online. A quality translation service can help you to communicate effectively.
6 – … And Local Ones as Well
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, and aren’t networking locally you are missing out on important opportunities to:
- Connect with other local businesses
- Learn how you can become a valued part of the community
- Develop a better understanding of the local customer base
- Learn about the local business ecosystem
You can start by joining your local chamber of commerce. Look for local networking groups on Facebook and other social networks. Finally, become an active member of the community. Sponsor, or at least attend, events in your local area. Volunteer your time. Partner with other retailers in these efforts as well. If there are no local networking groups, organize one of your own.
7 – Get The Most Out of Events And Trade Shows
No matter what you sell, or who your target audience is, there are trade shows and events that are ideal for your business. The downside is that attending these events can be prohibitively expensive. You may only be able to attend a couple each year. When you do go, it’s imperative to squeeze all of the value out that you can.
Come prepared. If you’ll have a booth, make sure that it’s welcoming. Bring along your best people. Prepare plenty of brochures and business cards. Connect with other attendees before the event. Plan to attend happy hours and unofficial get-togethers as well. This is where many of your most important connections will be made. If the event is held at a hotel, stay on site.
When you’re at the event, take time to walk around and get to know others. Pick up brochures and business cards. Ask questions. Don’t approach crowded booths. Instead, wait until they aren’t busy, then approach. This increases your chance of making a meaningful connection to someone.
8 – Follow-up
Don’t wait until you need something to contact your new connections. Follow-up within a day or two. Even if it’s just a simple thanks for the conversation. Add a personal touch by mentioning something you discussed, and provide an opening for future communication.
9 – Be Open Minded
That vendor has nothing to offer me. They would never be interested in my products. That business owner would never have goals that mesh with mine. These are the kinds of statements that can sabotage your networking efforts.
Instead, your overall focus should be on getting to know people and developing relationships. How you will benefit from them is a secondary concern at best. You’ll never regret having a positive connection with someone, even if it isn’t profitable for you. You might also be surprised at how often that seemingly meaningless introduction or meeting can develop into something that bears fruit for your business.
10 – Enlist Your Team
You shouldn’t be the only one in your business attending events or otherwise networking with others. Your team members are also members of your community. They have valuable knowledge about your products, industry, customers, and business culture.
In addition to this, members of your team may have networking skills that you don’t. For example, if you’re an introverted type, in-person events may not be where you shine, but these events may be perfect for one of your customer-facing team members. You may be in over your head at a tech event, but someone from your product development team may feel right in their element.
No business grows without the help and support of others. This is why networking must be a key part of your growth strategy. By using the 10 tips here, you can get the most out of your efforts, and prove yourself to be a valuable asset to other business owners as well.
About the writer: Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she had found herself as a freelance writer. She observes with a special interest how the latest achievements in media and technology help to grow readership and revenue and shares her opinion. You can find her on Facebook and Medium.
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