Networking 101

“It isn’t just what you know, and it isn’t just who you know. It’s actually who you know, who knows you, and what you do for a living.” – Bob Burg: Author, Endless Referrals

Networking, the art of making connections with people to expand your circle of influence, is one of the most important tools to grow your business. However, it is often overlooked by entrepreneurs who sometimes neglect to even tell close friends and associates about their business ventures.

Let’s look at some basic steps to get started in networking your business:

Practice your pitch
When you’re planning to use networking as a marketing strategy, you need to have a great answer to the inevitable question, “So, what do you do?” You must to be able to quickly outline your unique selling proposition (what makes your business special) in a way that will convince a prospect that you’re worthy of further consideration.

Mark Joyner, marketing guru and author of The Irresistible Offer, declares that you have exactly three seconds to capture the mind of a prospective customer. “People today are impatient, and rightfully so,” Joyner explains. “They are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages a day.”

So, get creative with your 3-second pitch. Instead of saying “I own a hairdressing salon,” spike a little interest by saying “I make women feel beautiful.” People always want to find out more about my business when I tell them that “I teach people how to manage, multiply and maintain their money.”

Get in the mix
Networking requires you to get out there and tell people what you do. Start by focusing on groups that you may already be a part of, such as past students’ associations, religious institutions, or your children’s PTA. Then ramp up your networking efforts by joining service groups such as the Kiwanis or Rotary clubs, or professional groups within your industry.

It is crucial to be prepared when you’re out meeting people. Make sure that you have enough business cards for the expected number of persons at an event. Walk with a small notebook to jot down email addresses and other significant data about people you meet.

Don’t just focus on yourself; it’s also important to be genuinely interested in other people’s stories. Make mental notes of interesting details, so that you can wow your new acquaintances in future conversations.

Link up for social networking
Social networking is simply the grouping of individuals according to shared interests or demographics. Social networking takes place in schools, workplaces, churches and communities, but it most popular and impacting on the Internet.

Thanks to the millions of web users, online social networking has the ability to introduce your business to large numbers of persons that otherwise would be out of your reach.

You can join a social networking site by accepting an invitation from a friend, or going directly to the website and registering. Depending on your particular business interests, you can select the network that provides the best contacts.

MySpace is essential for music industry practitioners, while LinkedIn and Plaxo concentrate more on business professionals.

Facebook, the most popular social network, has over 90 million active users according to a PC World article published in August 2008. Facebook has a great mix of personal and business users and can allow you to set up a special page for your business or create your own community that can attract persons with shared interests.

(c) 2008 Cherryl Hanson Simpson

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