Dolphin have been attending business networking events almost since our inception as a company back in 2004. We understand the importance of getting your brand out there and of connecting with other local businesses.
Depending upon the group you attend, the format can vary; it may be very informal with you being left to your own devices to mingle and talk with people. There may be food and drink, there might be the opportunity to stand up and give a little talk about yourself and your business. You can only discover what works best for your company by trying a couple of different business networking events.
The networking doesn't finish when the meeting does. You should have made some new contacts at the event and hopefully have come away with a clutch of business cards, or a list of attendees.
The connections that you made face-to-face now need to be developed and nurtured.There is little point in making the effort to get out and meet new businesses if you leave those interactions at the event. It is as much a part of going in the first place that you then follow up on those leads.
There are three simple ways in which you can ensure that you keep the dialogue going after a networking event.
Business Networking: Three Ways To Follow Up
Social Media: A good place to begin is with LinkedIn – this is the B2B platform and if you have their business card you should have enough information to connect with them. Here you will be able to learn more about them in their professional capacity. You should also see if their company has a Twitter page, a Facebook business page, or a You Tube channel. Having a look at your new contact's digital presence will help you gain more of an understanding about their company's culture and beliefs.
Email: Email has replaced telephone calls for a great many business people who may not have the time to sit and chat but will dedicate part of their working days to checking and replying to emails. A simple, "It was great to meet you yesterday at the Brighton Business Meetup...." opens the door to further communication. Unless you have been specifically requested to do so, don't use this as a medium to launch into a sales pitch - it's far better to take the softly-softly approach at this stage and to use this as a medium to develop a deeper relationship.
Real Life: If you feel there will be a mutually beneficial reason in taking the time to meet up again face-to-face outside of a formal networking meeting, see if the other person is amenable to this. Much as social media will give you insights and email conversations can be carried out anytime or place, nothing replaces meeting in real life to learn more about whether your two businesses can work together in the future.
To be successful at business networking you need to go that extra mile to encourage, maintain and develop your relationships. The best events will have stalwart regulars, but don't be intimidated by the fact they all seem to know each other. There will be very sound professional reasons for them coming time after time and if the event suits your business model, as it does theirs', then it's time you too became one of the regulars.