Running your own business means you constantly think about how you can grow your network and audience.  But networking can be forced and if done incorrectly, it can end up damaging your relationships and business instead of helping it grow.

But if done confidently, business networking, whether it is online and/or in-person, can be a very powerful way to increase your brand awareness, credibility, audience and chances of success. The absolute best way to grow your costumer base, and brand awareness is through the people in your network and referrals.

So before you start your journey down the road of the many networking opportunities in London, take a moment to really prepare, so your can be confident, and have the right knowledge and attitude before attending your first event.

Besides knowing your business and your competitive advantages, it is important to set goals of what you want to achieve through business networking, and what you are able to offer potential customers or clients.

When planning to go to a networking event, think about how the networking fits within your overall marketing plan and ask yourself these questions…

1.   What is my overall goal in attending?
2.   How many people do you want to meet?
3.   How many leads do you want to generate?

Knowing the answers to these questions will enable you to determine how much time and exactly what kinds of networking activities and events in which you should be involved.

Beyond thinking of your overall goals, there is a few golden rules for networking worth knowing, and keeping in mind when preparing for your event.

CreativeLab (Peckham Pelican)

Don’t try to sell at a networking event!
We’ve all been to parties where one person is always talking about himself/herself, bragging and in general being self-centred, seeking only to achieve his/her objectives with little regard for anyone else’s. Don’t be that person.
You shouldn’t sell at networking events – hence the word networking… You are there simply to increase your brand awareness, make connections, build your network and be a good connector - helping others make connections. Your selling activity should take place elsewhere. Way to many people forget this, making some networking events awkward, and uncomfortable for other attendees.

Help others first…
The old saying ‘givers gain’ means you first should give and you’ll gain from that giving.
Call it ‘doing the right thing‘ or karma, but this old saying holds as true in business networking as in many other aspects of life.

     Try to focus first on how you can help others make the connections they want to make. When you meet someone, ask them, ‘Who are you looking to meet?’ or ‘What kinds of businesses are you looking to connect with’.

You’ll become known as a master networker, people will seek you out and you will enhance your personal network and through that your company’s brand, while helping others, and gaining strong and positive relationships, likely to be leading to referral business and loyal customers.

Don’t forget the follow up!
If you connect with someone good, follow up with a kind email expressing gratitude for their time and advice. Again, don’t attempt to create a sales opportunity, but consider it a first step in building a stronger relationship, and an opportunity to enhance your community and network.
Don’t just add the person to your email database so they begin getting your unsolicited emails. Instead, in your follow up email mention that you will include them in your newsletters and that you hope that they will find them valuable but don’t hesitate to unsubscribe if they don’t. Seek feedback and advice about your information – that’s a sign that you respect the other person’s opinion.

At the next networking event, seek out that person just to say hello and express appreciation for making a connection.

Business networking can have a significant positive impact on your business growth and sales success. It can also be a big time waster.
Be prepared, be special, stand out, be respectful, be in the right places, and help others. Do these things and you become someone well respected in the business community, and someone people will want to meet, and work with.