Friday, 26 July 2013
Debbie Miles from the Athena Network, West Berkshire, offers 10 tips for successful networking
When you’re starting or building a business, people will often recommend networking events for attracting new clients.
While this is an ever-popular and effective way of gaining referrals, getting started can be daunting for some people.
Debbie Miles from the Athena Network, West Berkshire runs monthly networking lunches for women in Hungerford, Newbury north, Newbury south and Thatcham so is well placed to advise people on how to get the most from their networking.
Here are her top ten tips:
1. Decide what kind of networking works for you; early mornings? Lunchtimes? After work? Do you want to go weekly or monthly? If you have young children you may want to avoid breakfast meetings which can start as early as 6.30am!
2. See if you can work out who is coming before the meeting so you can target the people who you want to meet. Get there early so you can meet people as they come into the room.
3. Practise summarising what you do in one sentence. Debbie loves to cite the florist who says I make people happy or the photographer who says “I shoot people for a living”.
4. Bring plenty of business cards and make sure they’re good quality and say exactly what you do.
5. Be memorable. Offer to help chair meetings or to give a talk on your specialist subject so people remember you.
6. Bring props to meetings to demonstrate your work – perhaps you’re a designer who could bring some examples of logos you’ve designed? Or an interior designer who could bring photos of finished houses?
7. Follow up individually. You can get to know people in more depth by meeting later in the week for a coffee. The Athena Network recommends meeting people for a “one-to-one” and there are even prizes for the most prolific networkers! Be sure to follow up as the other person may forget, but don’t just add people’s email addresses to your mailing list.
8. Be sure to refer and thank anyone who has done a good job for you.
9. Don’t just think of attracting clients – there may be other people in the room who you could work with who will bring a whole package to a customer. Perhaps you’re a beautician who could refer work to a hairdresser? Or an architect who needs a solicitor to call on?
10. You’ll go home with lots of business cards so it’s worth inputting them into a spreadsheet when you get home.
Debbie adds: “Networking can take time out of your working day, so it really is worth doing a little preparation ahead of the session to ensure that you’re really doing it effectively. At the Athena Network, as well as networking for gaining new clients, our aims are to educate, support each other and to build alliances.
“We have four groups of inspirational women who all gain enormously from each other’s support but we’re always looking for new members and guests to keep things fresh.”
For more information contact Debbie via www.theathenanetwork.co.uk