How to stylishly network and promote your business
It’s the 4th of July holiday, and you know what that means? Barbecues in the courtyard. Pool parties. Neighborhood meetings. For many of us, after more than a year of masks and social distancing, we’ve become rusty about how to mingle at a party. Since small business owners often meet potential clients or important contacts in informal social settings, now is the time to brush up on your networking skills.
After all, even the most casual of events can prove to be a chance for you to grow your small business.
Let’s say your neighbor invites you to his 4th of July barbecue, only to find that his cousin is the purchasing manager of the biggest company in town. They buy widgets; you sell widgets. You don’t want to be a jerk, but you also don’t want to pass up this opportunity.
Summer social events often involve an uncomfortable mix of barbecue sauce and business, presenting sticky situations for entrepreneurs.
Here’s how to network gracefully at an informal summer social event:
Be sociable. Remember, this is a social event. People don’t come to barbecues or poolside parties to do business. Approach every encounter with a person, no matter how important it is to you, first from a genuinely social perspective. Don’t rush to discuss business – don’t even think about it at first.
Get to know them. If you identify a potential business contact at a social event, engage them in a conversation that has nothing to do with business. Have a little conversation that helps you get to know yourself and make a connection. Easy topics to break the ice include sports, vacations, and even the weather.
Look for something you have in common to build a relationship. Do you both love or hate the Yankees? Do you like gourmet cuisine? Do you have children of the same age? Start building a social relationship – this will get you way beyond bombarding them with business.
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Mingle. Have you found the perfect person who could help your business? Awesome. Spend time with them, build a relationship, maybe sit with them over lunch or a beer. But be sure to mix it up with the others. Don’t monopolize someone all the time, or you’ll look like a pest and over-impatient. And who knows who else you might meet?
Bring the spouse and children. If this is primarily a social occasion and there’s just a chance you’ll meet someone important, relax and bring the family. After all, it is the holidays. But if there’s a good chance you’ll be doing business, prepare your spouse or partner. If they have to meddle on their own while you are working in the room (or by the pool), make sure they understand that ahead of time.
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Bring business cards, but don’t hand them out yet. No matter how informal the event is, always keep your business cards in your wallet or purse, even if you leave them in the other room while you stand by the pool in your wedding dress. summer or your Hawaiian shirt. At a social event, only give someone a card when asked or before you leave the party. After chatting with someone for awhile, it’s totally appropriate to say, “Do you have a business card with you? I have my business card in the other room, I’ll get it for you. Or just exchange text messages right away, so you have each other’s contact details without having to cover your business card in barbecue sauce.
Organize a follow-up. Once you’ve established a relationship with a prospect, it can be comfortable to discuss a few things with them. After all, they’re going to ask you what you’re doing, and you’ll have your pitch handy: a quick description of the nature of your business. But don’t go too far. Now is not the time for a sales pitch. Instead, if they’re interested, arrange to follow up with them another time.
Behave yourself. If a customer invites you to a party, remember that it really is a business event for you. Of course, you can have a beer or a glass of wine, but don’t get drunk. After all, you don’t want their lasting impression to be that you’re shooting cannonballs in the big bottom of the pool screaming “Geronimo!” “