How to Get New Customers: Small Business Networking
Not all successful small business marketing has to take place behind a computer screen (it can get a little lonely back there, right?). More often than you might think, you can find new customers simply by getting out of the office, or out from behind the computer screen, and meeting people face to face. Isn't that what business cards are for?
While most people understand the benefits of networking as a means to connect with potential customers, the thought of going out and actually networking can send many into a full on panic attack. What is it about in-person marketing that intimidates even the most brazen, tough-as-nails business owners?
You can chalk it up to the fear of rejection, or the intimidation factor of having to bring the A-game to a room full of strangers, perhaps. In any case, networking doesn't come easy for most, but here are a few tips that will help get you doing face-to-face promotion naturally.
Conversing is best when it's not one-sided
Most people at networking events will be part of the industry or potential customers. As easy as it is to liken the situation to a room full of sharks at a feeding frenzy, it's best to remain as relaxed as possible. Have genuine conversations with both prospects and competitors, but remember to ask questions to create a truly meaningful exchange rather than simply spouting off a resume and personal achievements.
When chatting and exchanging business cards, remember that brief moments of silence can feel excruciatingly long, but they do give people the chance to breathe. Resist the temptation to fill the void with words all the time.
Practice working a room
It's totally possible for someone to talk a big game before a marketing event, then arrive and meekly stand in the corner. We get it, it's intimidating. But do you think entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs ever spectated at networking events when they were trying to promote small ideas that later went on to influence the world as we know it?
No way. Thankfully, marketing experts from the American Marketing Association give even the most intimidated solopreneurs the tricks and tools to work a room with confidence:
1. Arrive early and stake out a spot near the doorway. As tempting as it may be, don't even think about sitting in the corner.
2. Business cards are A-OK, but leave the resumes and large pamphlets at home. Odds are people will be walking mingling, holding refreshments and shaking hands—there's no room for poster-sized marketing materials.
3. Be genuine and personable. Do your best to remember names. Hot tip alert—repeating someone's name while making eye contact might even help with the cause. When in doubt, exchange business cards or contact information and take a few notes once they walk away.
By Saul McGoveran
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