In the early stages of EHCU Marketing Agency, we pursued networking opportunities with unwavering determination. Our team distributed over 2000 business cards, left a lasting impression on numerous individuals through firm handshakes, and greeted each encounter with genuine smiles. The mantra “Nice to meet you” resonated throughout our interactions, showcasing our unwavering confidence.
So here’s the deal, after every event, I had this whole routine going on. I would whip up these beautiful emails, tailor-made for each person whose card I got, and shoot them off in an email. Then the waiting game would begin. I’d be sitting there, hoping for responses, clicks on those well placed links in the email, new followers on our social media accounts, and, of course, a sweet surge in business. Pretty exciting stuff, if you ask me!
So, after like 7 months, we sat down and reviewed how much networking actually helped our business. And guess what? None of those “Nice meeting you” emails got any response. And get this, out of the 2000 business cards we handed out, only about 20 people or companies bothered to get in touch with us. Can you believe that?
So, what did we learn? Here are a few tips on networking as an entrepreneur.
Choose Your Events Wisely
We were like, “Nah, professional events ain’t our thing.” Instead of getting the chance to promote our business or make connections, we ended up drowning in job offers. So we decided to check out events where we could meet decision makers, government agencies, and other business owners like us. And that was way more beneficial for us as entrepreneurs.
Create a Networking budget
Networking events can be a drain on your time and money. By setting a budget, you can keep your networking efforts in check and stay focused on your goals. Plus, having a budget will come in handy when it’s time to do your taxes. Consider how much you’re willing to spend on event fees, drinks, food, and the number of business cards you’re willing to hand out. And hey, who wants to pay a cover charge for a networking event? We sure don’t!
Networking Requires Preparation
Networking is not just about smiling and shaking hands, you have to follow up. Like, having a website or a cool forum where people can check out your work and learn more about you after the first meeting. Can you believe meeting someone without a pitch for their business? Come on, be ready or you might risk looking unprepared and messing up your reputation. So, get your act together and show folks what you’ve got!
Focus on One Thing at a Time
Being active in the small business community is not like being in college. You don’t have to go to every event, happy hour, or brunch to be successful. Pick and choose the events that will be most beneficial to your business and your schedule. Your work should never come second to your social life but also prioritize your mental health to ensure you have a work life balance.
Networking Can Happen Anywhere!
Networking events are great for meeting new people, but they’re not the only way to do it. I’ve met some of my best clients and customers at bookstores, Starbucks, and even just hanging out in Downtown San Antonio.
Here are a few other informal ways to meet new people:
- Volunteering: This is a great way to meet people who share your interests and values.
- Taking classes: This is a great way to learn new skills and meet people who are also interested in learning.
- Joining clubs or groups: This is a great way to meet people who have similar interests.
- Attending industry events: This is a great way to meet people who are in your field.
- Networking online: There are many online forums and groups where you can meet new people.
Once you’ve met someone, don’t just exchange business cards and social media handles. Take the time to get to know them and build a relationship. This could mean inviting them to coffee, connecting with them on LinkedIn, or following them on X or Threads.
The more effort you put into building relationships, the more likely you are to find new clients and customers.
Here are some additional tips for networking informally:
- Be genuine and interested in the people you meet.
- Ask questions and listen attentively.
- Be yourself and don’t try to be someone you’re not.
- Follow up with people after you meet them.
But, as always – we want to hear what works for you. How have your fetes of networking worked out? Leave a comment – We’re avid networkers.