A quick guide to networking for entrepreneurs

Paper chain cutout of people holding hands on blue background.

I’ll admit that one of my guilty pleasures is ITV’s ‘Take Me Out’, a ‘low brow’ dating TV game show, and watching it recently got me thinking about the role of networking and the entrepreneur. The gist of the show is that a large group of girls are looking for love and a man comes along to ‘pitch’ for their attention. The girls all stand behind lit boxes and if they don’t like what they see, they simply switch the light off in front of them. All good-humoured, but how does this apply to building a business? In essence, the show is all about networking and trying to impress to make sure your audience keeps their light ‘switched on’.

I love networking; put me in a room full of people I don’t know, and I am away. I am a sociable person who is happy to chat to anyone and listen to them talk about what they do, I love a good biz card collection. In start-up land, we can easily spend every morning, lunch and evening networking. How many meetups are you part of? Frankly never mind about the day job, just change your title to Networker and that will do it. The fact is, if done right it will.

Investing your time

A few years back, when I decided that my chosen career path was start-up marketing, a very kind friend threw a slew of start-up groups at me and requested that I ‘go check them out’. I must have gone to about 10 to 15 events over a six month period with business cards in hand and an elevator pitch at the ready. So, I hear you ask, how much business did you generate? The answer is a lot, but not instantly.The golden nugget was when one person responded to a follow-up call, and the rest is history. 

The phrase ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find a prince’ applies to anyone that takes networking seriously, but you have to invest the time to make it happen. If you don’t buy a lottery ticket you can’t win the jackpot, but with networking, even the potluck isn’t enough, you also have to do your homework. With Eventbrite, your job is very easy, and with LinkedIn, it gets easier still. But it takes time and effort. Sorry, no shortcuts in this game. You have to do what you say you will, follow up with every card, call every person until things reach their natural conclusion. You will develop a sense of whether people you have met are, to put it bluntly, time wasters or worth investing in.

Locating your target audience

One further point to consider is, do you pay to attend the event? It depends as, let’s face it, quality costs, and in some cases, it is really, really worth it if you know who you want to speak to and the time and effort to get their attention otherwise could be a lot greater than paying the entrance price for a  drinks reception.

There are lots of different ways to build your business, and for some, the face-to-face meet and greet comes naturally and if done in the right way it can generate huge rewards. For others, the prospect of speed networking is as attractive as root canal treatment without the injection. I get it. You need to work out exactly what you need and how and where to get it, simple! So, I look forward to seeing you at the next meetup with your business cards and elevator pitch at the ready!