The MOO Blog

Small Business – Networking 101

26th May 2010 by Simon G

It’s time for the third blog post in honor of ‘Small Business Week’ in the US. For the whole of this week we are blogging about small businesses; from “taking the plunge” to choosing a business name.

We’re also asking you to share your tips and advice in the comments – sharing your experiences with other small businesses. We’re also giving away some wonderful prizes, thanks to a few friends of MOO! We know you’re busy people, so we’ll be announcing the winners on Tuesday (1st June), to give everyone a chance to respond.

Making connections

There are plenty of ways to network with the internet quickly becoming the easiest, fastest and most cost effective way. In fact, hundreds of social and business networks have sprung up over the last few years. Some have stronger penetration in different industry sectors, in different geographic locations and different demographics, but each of them can do something for you and your business.

Getting yourself connected online can help find new business opportunities, employees, or serve as an excellent resource for advice. We’ve included some of the different networks below and a brief snapshot of what each can provide you and your business.

LinkedIn (with a reported 65 million users) is possibly the biggest business network in the world. Allowing you to create your digital CV for others to find, LinkedIn is a great place to find new business contacts and build new business relationships.
Viadeo (which recently hit 30 million members) is similar to LinkedIn, allowing you to develop your profile online for other businesses and individuals to find and connect with you digitally worldwide.
Whilst Facebook is predominately seen as the home of university students with time to spare between lectures, the network has become a great way for companies to expand their reach in to new markets on a ‘social’ level – helping you to connect with a new audience.
Meetup.com lives somewhere between the online world and the “real world”. Providing a space to organise networking events for like-minded individuals, Meetup allows you to easily connect with local businesses to share ideas.

Some of the bigger players such as LinkedIn even provide iPhone applications allowing you to network through their site on the move, but in our opinion this will never replace the need to meet new and existing business contacts face to face and swap your Business Cards.

In the “real world”…

Networking “offline” at industry conferences and exhibitions is a great way to meet new people in your sector, share ideas (and a cup of coffee) and learn more about each others businesses and find new ways of working together. Unsurprisingly, making sure you have (and hand out) Business Cards at an event is one of MOO’s top tips for networking success!

Now, over to you… what are your top networking tips?

We want to hear from you – share your networking tips and advice with other small business owners by adding a comment below. The 3 best comments will win a 3 month Business Plus Premium membership worth ($150 each) thanks to our friends at LinkedIn! We’ll be announcing the winners on Tuesday (1st June).

Read comments (20)

  1. Peter Hoffer:

    We have been using Slideshare as a way to reach out to new clients. Like any small business, marketing resources are limited, but with Slideshare, we can really show our greatest asset – our way of thinking!

    We have published reports and presentations on topics that people will have an interest in – ranging from wine to sport. However we use those topics to weave in our core business strengths, like our expertise in social media. And bingo! Online users can read something fun but see the skills that go behind making those reports.

    Peter

  2. Amanda:

    Here’s my input:
    1. Know your product and your industry, well. This means research, spending time talking to people in that industry and experimenting until you are 100% confident in your product. In doing this you are automatically networking, making industry contacts and friends and learning along the way.

    2. Go to (safely organised) meetups. Make sure that you follow through with contacts and meet other people in your industry in person. People remember you more if they’ve met you in person.

    3. If someone pays you a compliment, make sure you honour it by thanking them. If you don’t do this you have created a dead end for that part of your networking process. You must also be as genuine as possible, people can see through a fake person.

    Amanda.

  3. Chrystal:

    Besides the usual networking tips I always remember what mama said, “be nice to others and they will be nice to you!”
    I am a firm believer in this. You have to give to receive, be kind to receive kindness and to always share your knowledge and help out those just starting out as someone once did for YOU!

  4. Melanie Brown:

    If you go to networking events where they give out name badges, make sure you place yours on the right hand side of your chest. This is because when you go to shake hands (on the whole with your right hand) that side of you comes forward and is more visible. If you place the badge on the left, people will find it hard to read your name and that next deal with the multi-million pound donor you’ve always been waiting for could slip away, Simples!

    Melanie

  5. Paul Marden:

    The best strategy is a combination of online and face-to-face networking. I’m a great fan of 4Networking and have learned from being part of their network that people buy from people, and they need to meet, like, know and trust you before they’ll even consider buying from you.

  6. Gabrielle Smith:

    Follow up with everything. Whether it’s thanking someone for their business or following up on a lead, it will show people that they are important to you. In today’s fast paced electronic world, I prefer to jot a quick handwritten note, but an email will work in a pinch!

  7. Bonnie:

    Thanks MOO for the opportunity to share! Love your products.

    1/ Know yourself, your skills, and your interests. This will help steer your networking strategy and will help you gravitate towards people you’re interested in and that are interested in you. Also when people ask you what you do, you can say so in a concise way that they’ll be able to share with others.

    2/ Reach out to people, have conversations – be it on Twitter, in real life, anywhere. Listen and be interested in what others have to say. Don’t automatically go into “sell” mode.

    3/ Connect with people who are good at joining the dots and making connections. And return the favour.

    4/ Strive to establish mutually beneficially, reciprocal connections and relationships.

    I second Amanda’s comment about meeting in person, thanking people, and being genuine.

    All the best, Bonnie

  8. Bonnie:

    p.s. At events, I write an interesting statement on my name badge around or under my name. It gets people’s attention and is a conversation starter.

  9. Heather Taylor:

    Find out what interests people have other than their jobs (hobbies, loves, favorite music, etc.) Then if you see something that would be of interest in that area, you can come forward them that information. Not only will they love it but they will be touched that you:

    a) listened to them
    b) are interested in them as a person
    c) aren’t just spamming them with queries about working with them

    Of course make sure to have links in the signature of your email of your latest projects (yep – change up your signature regularly and add different links depending on who you send the email to) and UPDATED website. Then they can see what you’ve been doing without the pressure that a salesy email brings.

  10. Mirek:

    First of all, you should never miss an opportunity to make contacts with other people. At a workshop recently, I have seen a few people, who were going to start a small business, and who didn’t care to simply talk to others during coffee and lunch breaks – not good.
    Great tips on networking (Social Selling, Breaking the conversation) you can find on my friend’s website http://marcingrodzicki.com/ Strongly recommended.

  11. Rochelle Dancel:

    If you go to a networking event, get some moo cards printed with a special offer specifically for people that you meet at that event. That way, people are more likely to hold onto your card, place you as someone they met at that event, and contact you to follow up.

  12. Vikki Yates:

    Don’t spill food on your clothing – tomato on your top is never attractive or appealing.

    Joke aside, I am shocked by the amount of people who turn up to networking events I attend shabbily dressed and not smelling all that fresh, first impressions people, it’s networking 101!

  13. Alana:

    5 Tips:

    1. Know thyself: What are your aspirations and goals? If you don’t know where you’re going to, how do you know when you get there? Be aware of your interests, what voice and tone you want to have, who you are and who you want to be- then be authentic, transparent, and proactive in your communications.

    2. Know thy audience: Who are you connecting to and building relationships with? Who do you want to? Where will you connect with others? Build a strategy. You don’t need to be on every networking site- what works for you and your target audience?

    3. Know thy keywords: From your title in your LinkedIn profile to within your profile summary, carry your keywords through the Internet with link building- using those keywords in every profile you build. Ideally, you have a simple, brief ‘internet elevator pitch’ of sorts, that incorporates your keywords and you use on most of your sites. Be consistent. From LinkedIn, link to your Twitter account, your Google profile, your blog or your portfolio. Then with your Google profile, link to all of those sites, as well. Add Facebook, and other networking sites, if that is part of your strategy and where your audience and connections will be.

    4. Know thy “face”: Tom Peters’ started the world-wide phenomena of branding yourself. It’s true. How you portray your image online in your profile photo to your business cards and websites, it all culminates in how people see you. Be consistent with your personal brand.

    5. Know thy reputation: From doing vanity searches to carrying thank you cards pre-stamped on your person, taking those extra steps proactively can help you build and maintain a strong relationship and reputation with others. Most importantly, be real.

  14. Lindsey Ann Brewer:

    The best place to start networking is grassroot networking. Start with people you know! Use these tips to expand your networking circle to those around you:

    1. Host networking parties for you and your friends. Make the invitation open, allowing them to invite colleagues, friends or family. A good way to do this is to combine it with a themed event like a football or holiday party. By theming the event and inviting people you know to invite people they know, you’ve instantly created an event with draw and trust.

    2. Volunteer opportunities are a fantastic way to network. Choose a cause close to your heart and either find an event or plan one yourself to spend some time volunteering for. You’ll get to meet new people with the same interests, show prospective colleagues you care about the world around you, and make a difference!

    3. Find or explore a hobby. Do you know how to build a boat? Write a book? Crochet a blanket? Find groups in your town that get together to discuss and do these things. You already have an instant connection with everyone there. This makes conversation easy and can lead to many networking opportunities while doing something you love!

    In the end, every moment of the day is a networking opportunity from sitting on the bus next to someone new to shopping at the grocery store. Don’t overlook a single moment. Carpe diem!

  15. Mike Richardson:

    1) Find someone who knows how to do it and suck their brain dry for all the tips and tricks you can. I have a friend / client who is very much up on how to use social networking, emails, blogs etc. to network; he has been very helpful to us!

    2) Take time to talk to people at tradeshows. If you run out of time go back to the second day!

    3) Don’t discount anyone as a potentially valuable member of your network. Just last night we met a guy in our local pub who wants some photos of his daughter doing at the end of the summer. His wife is a nanny. His mum works in a large school. He left clutching a small pile of our (MOO mini) cards for him and his family to dish out to potential clients!

  16. Mark:

    With apologies to the cast of Glee (or fans of Foreigner), “Don’t stop believing”. That’s essential for small business networking. When you’re working, you’re also networking – whoever you’re talking to. When you’re not working, you’re still networking. And if your organisation’s mission statement isn’t metaphorically embroidered on your underwear or tattooed on your behind, those people you’re talking to – whoever and wherever they are – will think you’re not committed.

    And, for heaven’s sake, be real. I’m not talking about confidence – if you don’t like talking to people you need to learn every confidence-boosting secret there is – but about the words you use. Networking isn’t about ‘pitching’. It’s about talking.

  17. Jen:

    My advice:
    1. Become a known expert in your field. Seek out related web sites and leave comments. Interact with other experts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
    2. Attend industry events and network! Talk to people, give them your ‘elevator pitch’, let them know how passionate you are. And don’t forget to give them a card you created at moo.com!
    3. Let your friends and family know about your passion. You never know where the next opportunity will come from!

  18. Glenna:

    Treat your customers like they are your family.

  19. Jade:

    - try to get involved in as many events as possible and be confident but not too in your face.
    - always appear happy and smiley and people will generally remember you.
    - don’t dismiss people, try and be nice as often as you can, bad things spread faster than good ones!
    - get everyone you know talking about what you do and the word will soon spread.
    - leave business cards wherever you think people will see them (or course!! or mini cards or stickers or post cards or all of them together!)
    - never leave the house without some buisness cards, you could sit next to a potential client when you’re on the bus, you never can be sure!!
    - you can always do posters and jot them around
    - if it’s before you’re starting up then spend as much time as you can networking and letting people know that you’re new but you’re good, you will soon have people calling up for your services
    - facebook, twitter, even myspace etc, make a group and invite everyone you know and ask them to invite people too. its the virtual word of mouth

  20. Nigel:

    I find it is often helpful to look at how you can bridge strutural holes in your network, I’ve written about this at http://rusdens.com/2010/05/networking-for-career-success/

Post a comment

  • we won't publish your email, or spam you

Please keep comments on-topic and be nice to people. We don't like moderating, but inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders sent to the MOO dungeons.

New to MOO?

We help our customers print things like Business Cards, MiniCards, and Letterheads, making it easy for them to share information about themselves or their business in the real world.

Keep in touch …

Don't miss out on special offers and discounts that we share with our subscribers!

Sign up to the newsletter

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to the feed

MOO Products on Flickr

  • Storm colorful abstract wallpaper
  • Japan
  • Elegant blue phone wallpaper
  • China
  • origami + MOO mini cards
  • Business Cards

View more on Flickr

Refer friends and earn money

We know that lots of you are great ambassadors for MOO and so we've been thinking of a way to say thank you. Which is why you can now actually earn money off your next order when you refer friends to MOO.

Find out more

Join the MOO Affiliate Program

If you can do us a favour, we'll do one for you in return. Sign up as an affiliate and you could earn up to £5, $8, or €6 for every new customer you send our way.

Sign up now
  Oh hi, nice to see you! Fonts Terms & conditions Privacy policy © MOO Inc., 985 Waterman Avenue, East Providence, RI 02914, USA - Registered in the United States of America.