You have a business, and now you want to find clients to stay in business. You advertised, you marketed, but how else do you tell people about your services? The answer: you network. Just keep in mind that networking is about more than handing out business cards – it's about making connections. Charlene Nixon, founder and chief experience officer at the Westchester Multicultural Chamber, and Michael Brathwaite founder of BNI’s New York Region share their expertise on the subject.

Form Symbiotic Relationships

Many people attend networking events to meet people that will help them grow their business. That’s fine, but you should also attend with the mindset of how you are going to help someone else grow theirs. As Michael Brathwaite puts it, “networking isn’t just about what you can get. It has to start with what you can give.” Find someone for whose business you would be able to be of service and form a connection with that person.

Don’t Just Collect Business Cards, Form Connections

Sure, you want to meet as many people as you can when your network, but that may not be the best route to take. You can collect a drawerful of business cards, but if the owners of those cards don’t remember who you are or aren’t your ideal client, you haven’t successfully networked. “I always say, if you go to an event and there are 100 people in the room, your goal is to meet one or two of the right people, and right is defined in multiple ways,” says Michael. “One is by category or profession, but there’s also by a common interest.” Get to know the people you network with and find out what you have in common to find out if this is a business connection that should be made.

Know Your Story

It’s important to know your business inside and out and to be able to communicate that information well. “You should be able to explain what you do simply and do so in 15, 30, and 60-second increments,” says Charlene Nixon, “because sometimes that is the only window of opportunity you have to grab someone.” 

You should also be able to explain why you are in the business you chose. If you have a personal reason for going into your industry that’s compelling, tell it! The story behind why you decided to start your operation could be the way you find a new contact. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. That is what people connect to,” Michael advises. If your business is in an industry close to your heart, conveying that message can attract clients who are drawn to your passion and authenticity.

Get Referrals

You not only want to meet individual people when you network, but you also want to get connected to everyone in their network. Perhaps the person you meet doesn’t need your services but knows someone who is. If that person gives your name as a referral, you have then expanded your network. Just make sure you offer quality service when you work with that referral so you may grow your reputation and that of the person who referred you. “Build a trust that is needed so someone is confident and comfortable enough to pass that referral,” says Charlene. “How you fulfill that referral is an invitation into their network.”

Find out more about successful networking by taking a look at our webinar, Building Bigger and Better Networks,  co-sponsored by the Westchester Multicultural Chamber and the White Plains Library here.

About the Author(s)

As part of the marketing and writing team, I help SCORE Westchester raise its profile with articles and written communication that help SCORE clients learn what our organization does to help them start and manage their small businesses.

Key Topics

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