Networking is an important part of marketing and business development, regardless of the current economic conditions. There are ways to put yourself out there to gain exposure at no cost and receive a return, and you should practice the mentality that “everyone knows someone.” Even if you meet someone that might not have a need for your product or service, they may know someone who does. Here are a few tips that are easy to do to expand your networking, and virtually have no cost.
1. Go through your Rolodex – Who do you know that can help you? If you go through your rolodex carefully, you’ll be surprised how many opportunities are available that you may have never noticed before. Doesn’t your neighbor play tennis with a woman that could use your product or service? Didn’t your dentist mention he’s looking for a bigger house? Try to think about all of your resources that you have available and how you can make connections through them.
2. Go to events – There are plenty of free networking events throughout the city and the suburbs. Look in publications or online for places that post events and check them out, including Chicago Agent’s event calendar. With a positive attitude and a professional demeanor, you never know who you could meet and what new business you could obtain by attending a free event.
3. Guest speak – Try being a speaker at a class, a seminar, in a webinar or a podcast, etc. There are many ways to create an opportunity to speak about your industry. Offering free advice in your field will allow others to see you as a helpful resource. By listening to you speak and interacting with you, they will be sure to add you as a contact and feel comfortable reaching out to you in the future
4. Ask for referrals – I can not stress enough how important it is to ask for referrals! Even when people are happy with a product or service, they might not think to take the time to refer you, but when asked would be happy to do so. Some people are uncomfortable with asking for referrals, but it is a necessary step. Instead of just asking straight out, send thank you notes to clients after conducting business with them and ask for a referral, or mention that referrals are your best compliment. Happy customers will always be willing to share their knowledge of you and your product or services to others. Maybe even provide clients with information that they can pass on if the opportunity presents itself. Think about even offering a small discount or a special as an incentive.
5. Join a networking group – This is the only tip that might have a fee to join, but it could be well worth your money. Professional networking groups are becoming increasingly popular. Some of these groups are modeled so that each member is active in a different industry. The group will typically meet monthly to discuss new business opportunities and referrals for each other. When looking for a professional networking group, make sure you are aware of all the fees up front and confirm that there are successful professionals involved in the group.
Overall, think of every day and every person that you meet as an opportunity. You never know who will be sitting at the next table over during lunch or who will wind up on your train during your daily commute. If you have your business cards ready, a positive attitude and a smile on your face, people will be delighted to speak with you and learn about what you do. You are your own brand. You represent yourself and your company, and you are a walking example of how you interact with others when conducting business. And remember, at the least, even if they do not need your product or service, they might know someone who will. Happy networking!
Melinda Joseph and Cece Gonzales Vidito with Raymi Productions hold events and seminars for business professionals around the City of Chicago. In the past, Raymi Productions has successfully held networking events and organized private special events in addition to collaborating with national non-profits. For more information or to contact Raymi Productions, visit raymiproductions.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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