Business Networking Ideas: For prospects and comraderie

by on August 11, 2011

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There are many different business networking ideas that can generate valuable results. Consider using some of these ideas for finding new customers, comraderie and profits. Applying these techniques can develop new business leads, as well as increase your level of comfort and enhance your business intelligence.

Your Attitude Toward Networking is Important

Your attitude and expectations while networking are important. Approach each conversation as an opportunity to discover what you can learn from that person. This reduces the pressure to make a good impression, and quickly propels each conversation based on your natural curiosity about others.

People are most comfortable when talking about themselves and promoting their businesses. Learning about the other person’s business might prove useful later, if he becomes a strong prospect or you meet someone else in the same industry. If the conversation becomes one-sided, it can sometimes be subtly redirected with a couple questions about their business, in areas that relate to your business interests. Open questions often can produce some pretty interesting or useful information that might open avenues where you want to learn more or can offer expertise:

  • What are the biggest challenges your business is facing?
  • Who is an ideal customer for your business?
  • What are your goals for this year?

When meeting a competitor or someone with few overlapping interests, you can make the coversation a short, but mutually enjoyable exchange of general information – an authentic compliment, a little humor, or useful tidbit related to their business or personal interests. You can accumulate great fodder for spicing up a conversation by reading nonfiction (see the right sidebar for books I have recently read) or offer some self deprecating humor, which may return a quick smile as your reward.

Focus on Your Best Networking Options

You can find upcoming networking opportunities listed on websites like MeetUp.com that announce and organize local events and meetings. The site has current listings of community meetings that are even useful while traveling, since it includes most U.S. cities, and many countries.

Upcoming events can be filtered with searches using geographical and topical keywords, so requests can be narrowed to ‘business networking in Atlanta’, ‘mobile apps in San Francisco’, ‘San Diego sailing’ or ‘expats in Geneva’. There are also events that specialize in improving skills or knowledge, like public speaking, accounting or graphic design. Other events may cover your market niche or recreational interests.

To generate new ideas, identify and attend the best of each category that interests you, discovering diverse perspectives and expertise. If a topic or locale is missing, you can easily and inexpensively start your own meeting group by posting a description and paying a small fee.

Hidden Gems of Business Networking

Do you want to further elevate your networking results? First, consider sponsoring your own group on MeetUp.com. Its an effective marketing technique if you offer valuable information at each event that is focused on your prospects’ needs. Sponsorship fees are inexpensive and cover automated meeting advertisements and signups for attendees, as well as follow up email messages. Many well established events, those preceding the Internet, are using these online services because they are easy to use, offer around-the-clock advertising, and increase the number of attendees.

If you find other potentially valuable groups, consider joining a few so you can receive periodic updates. Group members are eligible to post a brief personal and/or professional profile. I occasionally receive leads or customer introductions through my meeting group profiles.

The Chamber of Commerce is another great resource for networking events, allowing non-members to attend events, either as a one time privilege or for events designated for the public. Don’t overlook friends and acquaintances as a source of networking opportunities, it can be enjoyable and productive.

Your networking skills will accumulate with practice as habits and wisdom accumulate. Lately my results seem to be arriving more quickly, and from surprising sources. I find it especially energizing and rewarding when engaging with business owners or entrepreneurs who have a strong vision and drive. If you start applying these business networking ideas today, they can deliver results for you, too.

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