Day or Night? Which Works Best for Small Business Networking

Conventional agendas in small business networking groups usually include 30 second commercials, trading of referrals, collecting business cards and following up with a lunch date in hopes of building a relationship that will result in referrals coming your way. Now imagine another scenario. The agenda doesn't get in the way but, instead of busy work, allows you ample time to actually interact (network) with folks one on one and really get to know them without the distraction of interrupting your business day. Resulting relationships are deeper and trust comes more quickly. Always seek out small business networking events in which the schedule allows more than just 10 minutes to interact with and get to know someone. Usually evening functions accomplish this best but either way, day or night, make sure there is ample time for one on one interaction.

What You Can Learn From Sherlock Holmes About Small Business Networking

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Sherlock Holmes, although a fictional character, had several traits that made him such an effective crime solver. As small business owners we could all take a tip from old Sherlock because, given those traits, he would have been a very effective small business networker today. He had extraordinary powers of observation, a ferocious curiosity, asked endless questions and listened to the answers. Let's apply that your networking experience.

Sherlock didn't spend time talking about himself and you shouldn't either. Being genuinely inquisitive and interested in what someone does and what they care about demands that you ask questions which in turn make them feel much better about your authenticity. Beware! If you're going to ask questions make sure you show them the courtesy of really listening to their answers. It is only through true listening that you can discern what makes them special, and, without that knowledge, how can you refer them or help them grow their business. Listening and learning are traits well worth cultivating.

Smile Your Way To Networking Success

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Breaking the ice at a small business Networking event can be difficult if not downright terrifying. How do you appear at ease when you're not? Did you know that without saying a word, you can instantly put yourself as well as the other party at ease. You're probably thinking attire, grooming, a positive tone of voice? How about just a good old fashioned "beaming smile".

A smile does the talking for you. It says to the other person that you are relaxed, confident and approachable. Their brain in turn coaxes them to return your smile and that multiplying factor creates a feedback loop with two people smiling at each other. Make no mistake about it, a simple smile can go a long way to opening the door to conversation, connection and possibly more.

Should I join a new or an established small business networking group?

A newly established small business networking group has it's own energy and "esprit de corps" Founding members feel a part of building something bigger than themselves and are out to prove it. Being among the first to join also offers a much more likely chance of locking up your business category exclusively before anyone else claims it. That has huge implications for future referral business.

An  established small business networking group enjoys the pluses that accompany strength in numbers. With a sufficient roster of members, it's easier to recruit and presents exponentially more opportunities for referral business to come your way. The experienced members already know the drill and can then be very helpful in putting the new members at ease.

What is the time commitment of a business networking group?

If the group meets 30 minutes away and the event lasts for an hour, you are giving up 2 hours of your day. Figuring your time at $100 per hour, then you just spent a cool $200 to be there. If the group meets once a week, as most do, that puts the cost in time and income at roughly $800 a month. To justify that kind of expense, the group has to produce measurable value.

How much does it cost to join a business networking group? 

An annual networking group membership can range from $15 to $1000 depending on the group and what’s in their fee. For instance: If your group meets at a restaurant are you responsible for your meals and refreshment? Are you penalized if you miss an event?  Are you compensated for recruiting new members? Since no more that 50% of your annual marketing budget should be spent on one networking group, these numbers are vital in order to make sure you don't get in over your head.