Networking is a major part of growing a small business.
If you don’t get out there to meet and mingle with your target audience, your peers, and leaders in your industry, you are severely limiting possible growth opportunities for yourself and your business. Whether you are networking at small business conferences, industry trade shows or various types of events in between, it’s important to present yourself professionally and confidently.
Are you networking successfully? Well, if you make any of these networking mistakes, chances are you are not making the best first impression.
Not Having Business Cards
We may be in the technology era where we never leave home without our smartphones and spend more time with our devices than other people, but that doesn’t mean virtual business cards have replaced traditional ones. Sure, there is a myriad of apps out there that provide an alternative way to share contact information while networking, but that doesn’t mean paper business cards have lost their value.
Trading physical business cards while networking can be a powerful touchpoint that can amplify your first impression. Plus, business cards are still expected and treated as the norm in many professional settings. Not to mention an effective business card can be a powerful part of your brand that makes your business memorable.
Using DIY Business Cards
While not having any business cards to hand out is a major networking mistake, having unprofessional business cards that you created yourself is even worse.
Just because you can buy perforated business card paper that works in your printer does not mean you should. Even if your design skills are up to par, it is almost always obvious when a business card was not printed professionally.
Business cards are very affordable, and there are many services that provide design templates and even custom design services for a reasonable fee, so there is no reason to print your own business cards.
Forgetting About Your Elevator Pitch
Networking is all about getting your business in front of people that matter, but networking situations can often be a lot like speed dating. When there are a lot of people at an event who are interested in making the rounds, to meet as many people as possible, you will have a very brief period of time to introduce yourself and make a great first impression. This is why you absolutely must have an elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is one- to two-minute speech that provides a succinct overview of your business, products or services. The goal is to introduce yourself and your business quickly in a way that is both engaging and memorable. If you don’t have one, you should write your elevator pitch today.
Only Talking to People You Know
Remember in high school how we all tended to stick with our groups, rarely venturing into other cliques? Sticking with what we knew may have helped us survive the teenage years, but it makes for very inefficient professional networking. If you stick with people you already know, you are missing all of the true value that comes from networking. Be ready and willing to get out there and introduce yourself to new people.
You never know whom you might meet and what it could mean for your business — that’s the true power of networking.
Neglecting to Follow Up
While the actual event is the part of networking that usually consumes most of our time and energy, successful networking doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s what happens after an event that can determine the success of your networking efforts. If you don’t follow up with new contacts you meet during the event, you and your business will probably be quickly forgotten. Whether you follow up by phone, through email or by adding people you met as connections on LinkedIn, an appropriate follow-up process after networking is vital.
Keep in mind that networking can take many forms — local events, national conferences, one-on-one meetups and even online groups and communities.
Being open to many kinds of networking opportunities can make the difference between sustained business growth and stagnation.