Learn-A-Latte: Networking Best Practices

Networking is one of those big, scary buzzwords that comes up throughout entrepreneurship. It’s also something I consistently get asked to speak on, because many people are unsure how to network effectively and make connections last. With more events starting up for summer,  networking was the perfect topic for our June Learn-A-Latte chat. While networking can be intimidating, there are tips and tricks to make networking just another tool in your entrepreneurial kit. Here are some foundational habits I have used throughout my career and in Piccolo Solutions that can make and maximize your networking connections. 

Networking Habits to Know and Build

  • Define Your Target Audience: Networking is a form of marketing, and when marketing, you always start with your target audience. Time spent at events is valuable–use it wisely. If you go to an event, think about who may benefit from your product or service, or who may be a potential referral partner. While referrals may not result in an immediate sale, they can give your networking ROI a boost through the expanse of opportunities they open up. 
  • Know Who Is In The Room: Your top target audience is the group you are trying to sell to, secondly, they are the people that have connections to your target audience. When you walk into a room, think about who is there, the size of their company, their products, their services, their interests, and how they may relate to your product or service. Are they potential vendors, clients, or strategic partners? Get to know who people are and what they do before you go to an event; it helps create a course of action. If the event details are on social media, you can easily see who is attending beforehand. 
  • Select Events Thoughtfully: When I first started out, I went to every networking event that I could possibly find that I could squeeze into my schedule. If I showed up, I felt like I could check ‘networking’ off of my to-do list. Yet what good is going to tons of events that don’t yield connections because the people there weren’t the right audience? Over time I found that smaller groups that match my target audience provide the highest ROI, with a smaller amount of time invested. If you go to events that make sense for you, you won’t exhaust yourself with 200 handshakes that don’t lead to fruitful relationships. Be selective and thoughtful with the types of events you go to, and do your research about who may be attending beforehand.

Maximizing and Maintaining Connections

  • Systems For Follow-Ups: I am all about systems, and what’s great is they can be applicable to networking as well. You can create a repeatable, scalable system that keeps you in the minds of the people you meet. Let’s say someone goes to an event, shakes a few hands, and gets a few business cards that they forget about or lose. You should take the initiative when it comes to getting into contact: collect everyone’s contact information. If you are speaking at an event or you know the organizer, politely ask if it is possible to get a copy of a guest list. If the event is round-robin style, with people introducing themselves through a pitch, take a notebook and write down their information to look them up later. 
  • Use Technology: After events, take the contact information you collected, get on LinkedIn, and send connection requests with a special note. Having a recognizable LinkedIn profile helps people recall speaking with you about your brand. Personal messages also stand out; they show more effort than the generic ones. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are also useful. Don’t be afraid to follow people. They’ll get a notification and take a look at the social media marketing you’ve worked so hard on! If you have their email, add them to your master email marketing list. If they don’t want to be on it, they will simply hit ‘unsubscribe’.
  • Stay Consistent: Once people follow you on social media, the marketing work you already do will kick into gear. Having a consistent social media presence means that people will see you everywhere, know about the events you are hosting or attending, and be reminded of your services. Soon enough, a link will form in their minds between you and your product or service, so if someone they know is in need of what you offer, they will be able to refer you. Your network can be maintained and expanded through consistency and intentionality. 

At my Learn-a-Latte chats, I pull from my extensive entrepreneurial and marketing experience to speak on topics relevant to business owners and entrepreneurs. Our discussions are always insightful, and it is a great, quick way to get some learning into your day. I would love to see you at my next chat in July!


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