Business networking is practically essential for smaller companies, and opportunities are all around when you watch for them. Practice your elevator pitch for introductions and keep a few business cards on you at all times so you’re ready when a networking opportunity presents itself. At its core, networking is about building relationships and knowing the venues that offer the best opportunities.
1. Networking Websites
Consider taking advantage of technology to boost your small-business networking efforts. A number of websites support this type of relationship building, including LinkedIn and Business Partnerships Canada. To effectively use these sites for business networking, begin by creating a professional profile for yourself and your small business.
Your professional profile serves as a digital introduction to others in your industry, and it’s a chance to make a good impression. Also, look for groups within your industry that have a presence on these networking sites, and search using keywords related to your industry to find others working in your field.
2. Social Media
Social media websites provide another technology-based way to build relationships and network on behalf of your business. Set up a profile for your business on the social media site where your customers and potential business colleagues are most likely to find you.
Think of social media as a way to communicate and build relationships rather than just to market to customers if you’re using it for networking purposes. Schedule time to share information, send contact requests and respond to comments from people who post on your page or wall.
3. Business Conferences
Consider joining one or more business-themed organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. If you prefer not to join, watch the organization website and news media to locate meetings they host. Arrange to attend those meetings, including luncheons and speed networking events.
When attending, pay close attention to social etiquette regarding details like shaking hands and adequately tipping service staff when the situation merits it. For example, if you pay in advance for a luncheon, a tip may not be appropriate because the organization may handle it in that situation, but an event with a cash bar would make tipping the server a normal part of social protocol.