As a small business owner, you don't leave much to chance.
Why? Because you've learned that planning and goal setting are essential tools in your quest to create a highly successful small business.
Planning is also a cornerstone of successful networking. While a good plan won't guarantee lasting connections with industry movers and shakers, the most effective networkers consistently approach events with a strategy of well-defined goals and targets.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you define your business networking plans and goals:
- Identify desired outcomes. The first step toward creating a networking strategy is to identify your desired outcomes for the event. It's possible that your desired outcomes will change from one event to the next depending on the nature of the event and the people in attendance. However, it's more likely that your networking goals will be dictated by the needs of your business. If business is slow, it's time to hit the networking circuit with a desired outcome of generating new leads for the company.
- Target the right events. After you have identified your networking goals, it's time to turn your attention toward choosing the right networking events. This is the place where a lot of business owners go wrong because they neglect the fact that not every networking event is the right fit for their business or their networking goals. Would a networking event for young startup business owners be interesting? Maybe. But it won't help you if your real goal is to network with seasoned veterans who can help you take your company to the next level.
- Research strategic targets. If you're on track you will know the names of the people you want to meet before you attend the event. You might have to do a little asking around to find out who will be at the event, but once you've identified your target contacts learn as much as you can about them. Then use the information you gather to establish points of contact and hone your conversation points. One way to strike up a conversation with a high profile contact is to use recent news items about their company as an entry point.
- Rehearse conversation points. If you are memorizing lines before a networking event, then you are probably expecting way too much from a single conversation. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't rehearse conversation points. Compile some key points about your business and think about the kinds of questions you will ask target contacts before you arrive at the event.