You look at your loaded daily “to-do” list, wondering how you’ll get it all done. Then you look at your calendar and notice you scheduled a networking meeting! Your first reaction is – what was I thinking? I don’t have time to go smooze with a bunch of people… they’re probably all looking for clients or people trying to get a job.
Should you go to that event?
Sometimes networking may seem fruitless and a waste of your valuable time. And sometimes it can be. But if you are a small business owner, there are several reasons why you might want to heed that appointment on your calendar:
1) Potential Customers – Potential customers are most likely your strongest motivation for attending a networking function. The type of business you are in will determine the likelihood of this happening as well as the type of event*. But even if your customers might not frequent the event on your calendar, there are other reasons you might want to consider going.
2) Referral Sources – An event may give you an opportunity to meet some individuals that can refer new business to you. Aligning with referral sources can really give your business a boost. Look for people in different lines of business that target the same types (profile) of customers. Be interested and ask questions about what they provide and their ideal customer and how you might help them. Then, usually, the reciprocal conversation will naturally flow. When you come across opportunities, refer them – this is helpful to the person looking for the product or service, gives you credibility and encourages others to send referrals your way.
3) Resources – The same folks you identify as possible referrals may also be a great resource for you and your business. Examples might be accountants, bankers, attorneys and marketing resources that even if you don't see a need for now, you may down the road.
4) Feedback -- Additionally, networking groups offer you a wonderful place to crystallize your ideas and test reactions. Most groups go around the room and give you an opportunity to practice your "elevator speech". This forces you to concisely describe your business and a great opportunity to practice different ways of describing it. You may also find individuals that can be a great “sounding board” to test ideas, challenges and presentations – and get immediate feedback.
5) Social Interaction – Starting and building a business can require many lonely hours; especially if you're a sole practitioner. It's healthy and inspiring to get out and talk with other business owners -- you may hear something that helps shed light on an issue you've been mulling over or just get a much needed laugh to start / finish your day.
These are some of the reasons I push myself to get out there and mingle.
If you have other additional reasons that motivate you to network, please add them in the comments section - every insight is a valuable one for someone!
Thanks for reading!
*Note: There are many interesting events the Triangle area – please join our mailing list or check back for more on this topic.
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