Looking to drum up business in your community? Networking is crucial to generating sales leads and new customers — and it should go beyond passing out business cards at Chamber of Commerce mixers and introducing yourself at local BNI meetings.
Here are five effective ways to boost your networking efforts.
- Join a nonprofit board. Nonprofit groups frequently seek experienced business leaders to support their mission. Find a cause that you care about, and while doing something altruistic, you’ll have opportunities to get to know other board members (i.e., influential professionals within the organization’s donor community). Register for an account on boardnetUSA to find organizations near you that could benefit from your participation.
- Get thee to a tweetup. Many cities host monthly tweetups, which offer Twitter users in the same community the chance to meet one another in person. Although these gatherings are not strictly business-oriented, tweetups present an opportunity to connect with socially networked people in your neighborhood, pass out a few business cards, and talk about what you do.
- Hit the golf course. Sure, some golf clubs still have a “good old boys” mentality, but if you know your way around the green, they can be great spots to pick up new clients. Show up as a single player — and compliment others on their game. If this leads to longer conversations, hand your new acquaintances a business card before you proceed to the next tee.
- Get involved with a religious organization. If the spirit moves you, make it a priority to get to church, the synagogue, or elsewhere, and volunteer to help out with special events. Sharing a belief system makes your fellow worshipers more likely to trust you, and, as a result, more likely to do business with you.
- Attend your school’s alumni events. High schools and colleges often host large events and fundraisers with a strong alumni presence. Show up and introduce yourself to grads from other years — or even volunteer to help the event organizers. Your fellow alums may own or work for businesses that could use your services. Keep a copy of your alumni directory on hand, too, and read alumni newsletters. If you come across potential prospects or partners, send them a warm introductory letter that recalls your school days, which is likely to be better received than an anonymous cold call.