This is a guest blog post by Tamsin Fox-Davies, Small Business Evangelist, Constant Contact
Business networking events, like Social Media Week London, always hold the promise of new connections and the potential for growing your small business. The big question, though, is how to make the most of these types of events.
Sure, adding a handful of new business cards and contacts to your LinkedIn profile is certainly worth the time spent attending the events. Yet after these events, many small business owners don’t know how to make these new, loose connections tighter. They want to know how to take them to the next level and easily fold them into a social media marketing strategy.
Many novice networkers pounce on a new contact in an effort to build their lists and gain access to more connections. A more effective approach, however, is to determine the new contact’s interests and business needs, take a few notes after you’ve met, and then follow up a day or so later.
I was asked a question about exactly this issue at our recent event in Leeds. One attendee said he couldn’t see how to use a networking event to build his email list. My response was that it’s all about how you do it!
Building on this, we have seven recommendations for making the most of your next networking event to create sustainable and genuine connections:
1. Personalise whenever possible. As follow up, send a personalised note that reflects the gist of your in-person conversation and ask for permission to add them to your newsletter contact list
2. Entice them to become a Fan of your Facebook Business Page by offering an incentive that reflects their interests
3. Comb through your contacts and see if there’s a connection you can make that will benefit your new contact. This often inspires your new connections to return the favour
4. Don’t discard any connections. While they may not be directly aligned with your business today, they might (or their connections might) be in the future
5. Look for opportunities to partner. Find complementary businesses and team up on joint marketing activities. For example, you can create a joint incentive with a complementary local business and reach a wider audience by sending that incentive to both businesses’ contacts – but be sure to check for duplicates so that recipients don’t feel overwhelmed
6. Feature new contacts in your marketing campaigns – if it feels like the right thing to do. For example, your newsletter could spotlight their business. By adding social sharing and subscribe buttons to your newsletter, your new connections can easily pass along your content while potentially increasing your subscriber base
7. Never miss an opportunity to say thank you. Always acknowledge messages and thank your connections for Liking your business page, forwarding your newsletter or Tweeting about your company. A simple ‘thank you’ is a great way to begin a conversation
Social Media Week London is just one of many networking opportunities. Perhaps you might want to check out our SMEet-Up this week? I’ll be discussing how you can use your Facebook Page to drive real business results – contact us on Twitter @ctctuk if you’d like to come along! Either way, open your calendar, fill it up, and make the most of your next in-person meeting.