Networking is often associated with the corporate world and tends to conjure up an image of high-flyers in business suits trying to move up the ranks and rub shoulders with other influential members of the industry. However, networking is an area that should be used by anyone with a business, including the self-employed small business owner.
If you’ve already been networking this past year then this post might give you a few ideas of other areas that you could look into, but for those who have never considered networking a part of their business strategy, here is where to start.
WHY SHOULD YOU NETWORK?
There are so many reasons for a business owner to network but here are just a few:
- To get a job. In the employed world, 60-80% of people found their current job through some form of networking. Rather than dismiss this fact thinking that it doesn’t apply to you, you should take it as encouragement. Most people will hire someone that they know and feel they can trust, so, the more people you meet the more you fall into that category.
- Develop your current career. The more you network, the more you see whats going on in your industry, what other companies are offering and what today’s customers are asking for.
- Referrals and leads. Everyone needs and wants more customers and one of the best and easiest ways of finding them is through networking.
Before you do anything else, take a step back and look at the networking and business plans you set out last year. What were you aiming for? Did you achieve those goals? If not, why? It might be that your goals shifted and changed over the course of the year, or perhaps they just got left by the wayside. Whatever the case may be, take a minute to find out what happened and define this year’s goals.
Now you know where you want to go, think about your elevator speech. If you’ve never heard this phrase before, then it basically means a few phrases that sum up and sell your business to a customer. It’s short and sweet and something you can tell someone in the amount of time it takes to ride in a lift.
Thirdly, go through your networking materials. This includes business cards, flyers, brochures, pricing sheets, postcards, example albums etc, and make sure that they all align with your brand style and goals. Check that all the information is correct and the same as those presented on your website and social media profiles.
Get out your calendar and see what events are coming up this year. Are there any that would be worth signing up to, either to meet others in your industry or to gain more customers. Don’t know where to start? Head over to Google and get searching.
WHERE TO NETWORK
This primarily depends on what type of photography you specialise in but generally look into attending shows, conventions and conferences that your suppliers will attend. For example;
- The SWPP Convention
- The Photography Show
- Trade Shows
Equally, attend shows and conventions where potential clients frequent. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer then attending local wedding shows means you will meet a huge number of brides-to-be all looking for their big day photographer. Equally, if you are a family portrait photographer then attending events such as Christmas markets is a great way to meet families in the area.
Finally, consider setting up a referral circle by partnering with other local businesses that complement yours and will have a similar target audience. For example, if you are a newborn baby and child photographer then getting in touch with local baby groups, NCT groups, creches and nursery schools is a good place to start. Alternatively, if you specialise in weddings then getting in contact with local florists, cake makers, wedding dress shops, and venues is a good way of getting your name in front of another group of potential customers.