Networking Tips For Small Business Owners

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, your schedule is filled with various tasks from managing orders and inventory to handling marketing and finances. Let’s not forget your daily to-do list and surprises. Networking may fall to the bottom of a lengthy list of tasks you’d like to do.  

However, networking is important for small business owners and entrepreneurs. It helps connect you with the local community, potential customers, referrals, and potential collaborations. It doesn’t have to fall to the bottom of your priorities.  

Here are five quick tips that will help prepare you for your next networking opportunity.  

1. Prepare 

If you do a little preparation for a networking opportunity, you’ll be ahead of the game. Ask yourself what your goals are by networking, such as making new connections, finding potential clients, or learning from others. 

Do research and find industry and non-industry networking groups in your area. Search community calendars and social media business groups, or ask contacts you already have. Choose which events you’d like to attend that month and then put them on your schedule. 

Not all networking happens after 5 p.m. There are many morning and afternoon networking groups, as well as ribbon-cutting events, conferences, seminars, workshops, and community events that can be useful places to network during normal business hours. 

2. Be Organized 

Put your business cards in a specific place in your wallet, or a holder in your purse or bag so they are easily accessible. Have a brochure you want to include? Place your cards inside the brochure, and let the person know the card is in there.  

Keep a few of your cards with you wherever you go. You never know who you may bump into waiting in line for coffee, at a party, or a restaurant.  

3. Plan Ahead 

Try to plan to speak to at least three people. Not sure who will be there? Reach out to the organizer and ask if you can see who is registered. Make a note about who you’d like to speak to at the event. If you arrive early, check the name tags to see who else may be coming. 

Plan any small talk or a way to introduce yourself, too, especially if you don’t normally network. Or ask an extroverted friend to come with you as they are likely to include you in conversations and help you connect with others. Remember, a firm handshake and a smile go a long way when greeting others. 

When the time comes, try to spend no more than 5 to 10 minutes with that person. You don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s time. If the conversation is going well, ask to schedule coffee or lunch to talk in more detail.  

4. Practice 

Practice your elevator pitch. You will most likely only have a few moments with someone, so practice your business pitch and keep it brief. Try it out on a friend or colleague. Keep it clear and concise and allow for follow-up questions.  

Keep your elevator pitch evolving, especially if you feel others aren’t connecting with it. It’s OK to try multiple versions until you find the right one.  

5. Follow-Up 

Follow up with people within 24-48 hours after the event. Make a note on any cards you receive (or for anyone skilled enough, start a spreadsheet) and note where and when you met that person. Reach out by email or phone call and thank them for their time. If you discussed a reason to follow up, ensure you add that. Keep their card on file somewhere if you may ever need them in the future. 

If you have a large collection of business cards, go through them once a year and weed out any out-of-date cards. If you run into someone at another event, ask for their updated card, and remember to update any contact information you have stored elsewhere.  

Bonus Tip: (Don’t Blame It on the) Alcohol 

If you’re headed to a happy hour event, it’s best to watch your alcohol consumption. Remember, these events are to connect with others. Keep things professional. While one drink may be fine for some, only you know your response to alcohol.  

If you’re uncomfortable ordering water, a soda, or iced tea, it’s OK to ask a bartender for club soda and lime or a fun non-alcoholic cocktail.  

Remember, networking is an investment in your business’s growth. By prioritizing it, you’ll expand your professional circle and open doors to new opportunities.