Experts Share 5 Networking Tips for Business Owners

As the calendar changes from summer to fall, its time to refocus your energy on your fourth-quarter objectives. One great way to do this is to build or rebuild your pipeline of prospects.

As Ive said many times, it doesnt pay to go solo, even if youre a “solopreneur.” One proven way to build your business is to reach out to people who can help you. In fact, thats what I did in order to create this weeks Tip! I got in touch with five colleagues who work with business owners and asked for their #1 piece of advice on networking.

Meet people face to face. By giving your clients a chance to connect a face with a voice, youll be more memorable than if you limit yourself to phone communication, says Michael Katz, a marketing advisor who specializes in helping solo professionals develop a clear niche. Commit to one coffee or lunch per week and youll have 50 meetings under your belt by the end of the year. BluePenguinDevelopment.com.

Get past “hello.” When you meet someone, ask questions that go beyond what they do for a living, advises Victoria Nessen Kohlasch, owner of a marketing consulting firm that helps companies build brand momentum to achieve their growth goals. Follow up the necessary introductory questions by offering the other person an opportunity to share a success story. “What wins have you had recently?” or “How did your last client find you?” will give them permission to recall a positive experience. Dont you suppose that will make you more memorable, too? NKAmarketing.com

Send handwritten notes. Even if youve exchanged thank-you emails, follow up with an old-fashioned note on paper, says Evelyn Starr, a marketing consultant who assists young brands that have stalled after their initial success. In this day of constant electronic communication, its a treat to get a personal note. It will also distinguish you in the contacts mind and signal that youre genuinely interested in building a relationship. EStarrAssociates.com

Take your social media conversation offline. Your relationship with a contact may start on a social media platform, but it doesnt have to stay there. When you find a person with potential to help your business grow, move the conversation to email, or better yet, meet up for coffee, suggests Suzan Czajkowski, who helps small businesses and nonprofits develop online marketing strategies. This will take the conversation out of the public eye and create a space for more productive interaction. TheCommCoach.com

Know when to follow up. Theres a balance between persistence and patience. Too little connection, and decision-makers will forget about you, but too much and your prospects may become annoyed. How to know what to do? Just ask them, says Caryn Kopp, a consultant who advises business owners on how to secure initial meetings with hard-to-reach prospects. Dont assume your contact will remember you a week, a month, or a year from now. People like to know theyre not the only ones investing time and effort at the beginning of a relationship. Kopp suggests the following questions:

* What do you see as our next step?

* Would a call or email be the best way to schedule time to continue our conversation?

* I understand there isnt an opportunity right now, but when can I check back with you?

Even if the current response to your overture is “no, thanks,” the situation could very well change down the road. If you want to be considered when the need arises, you have to stay in touch. KoppConsultingUSA.com

With so many ways to stay connected in todays multimedia world, its disheartening how often we still manage to miss each others signals. But remember: No matter how busy you are, its worth your effort to keep track of people who can help your business succeed. For more suggestions on using networking to build your business, contact me.