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8 tips for more efficient business networking offline

Business networking offline is more nuanced than on the web, and many waste a considerable amount of effort at networking events – here’s how to make good use of your time and make better connections.

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Becoming more efficient at business networking

Most of us go to networking events with an end goal in mind, which is to expand our network and look for referrals for our businesses. As my businesses grow, I’ve found unique challenges that commonly arise at networking events and here are some helpful tips so that you can learn to be more efficient and effective with networking and referrals.

1. Have a business card on you at all times.

You never know when a business opportunity may arise. There was a time where I was attending a conference called SIGGRAPH in San Diego, CA and I found myself sitting next to the President of a World Wide Organization on a Charter bus. Opportunities happen all the time, not just at networking conferences. Make sure you have a business card on you.

We aren’t at the digital age yet where exchanging contact info through our phones is common place, so make sure to bring some way to capture their contact information quickly as well as a way for you to give a potential contact your info or else you may never see that contact again.

2. Develop a plan of what you want to accomplish the day before an event.

Develop a short mission statement for yourself containing details about what you want to accomplish at your networking event. Also figure out why do you want to accomplish this and what you can do to accomplish this goal. Then write down three things you want to accomplish at your event that will make it a successful event for you.

When you go to an event, focus on completing one objective at a time starting out with the highest priority networking goal. For example, if you are looking for funding, when you arrive, you will need find out where Venture Captialists are networking and stay in that area until you’ve met all of them that you can. After that, you can move to your other objectives for the evening.

3. Research all aspects of the event you’re attending beforehand.

Research where the networking event is if you haven’t been there before. Knowing where the venue is can help you arrive on time and plan for traffic and parking ahead of time. Often times, there are public RSVP lists to these events where you can see who is attending and what their backgrounds are.

Make sure to seek out these lists if they are available and make a list of people you must talk to before attending the event. Researching the networking event’s history can also make you appear knowledgeable and it can even make you the ‘go to’ person or experienced networker in certain situations.

4. Bring your marketing and presentation materials with you.

Always bring at very least, a pen, a permanent marker, and something to write on. One thing that happens to me quite often when I’m networking is I will hand someone my glossy double-sided business card, I will say something meaningful to my new networking contact, and they are unable to write a note to themselves on my business card. If you bring extra pens and the right kind of pens, your new contact will be impressed by your thoughtfulness and will be able to write down valuable information immediately about you.

If you have a manufacturing based business, bring a prototype. If your prototype is too large, then keep an image with you on your smart phone. Remember to keep your phone charged and bring backup batteries if needed. Put videos of your product or service on your phone so you can show people what you do quickly. All of your presentation materials assist people to understand what you do and what you need from them quickly. Remember that not everyone learns primarily by hearing what you have to say, you have people that learn by visual or tactile queues or a combination. So it’s best to prepare a quick pitch about what you do, tell them about it, show them what it is, then leave them with something tactile behind so that you’re catering to all of their senses.

5. Dress for the people you want to attract.

Austin, for example, can be pretty laid back so sometimes it’s usual to wear a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops when you’re at a business networking event. Just remember that if your goal is to network with and hang around people in suits all evening, you should be wearing similar clothing as those people you want to attract. Doing this will make them feel more comfortable around you.

6. Know how to speed network like a pro.

When networking, I usually come into a group of people, say hi, and let the group finish their discussion before I start leading the conversation to ‘So what do you do? Why are you here?’ After I’ve spoken with the person for some time to discover how I can help them or add value to their business, I ask them based on what they know about me so far, how they feel they could add value to my business. It’s a tricky art, because although it is reasonable to offer solutions to their problems, it cannot feel contrived – legitimately find ways to connect them with others or solve their pain points, and explore whether or not they have a value to offer in return (they may or may not).

If I figure out that there is no synergy, I will excuse myself from the conversation and leave the group. You should learn to politely excuse yourself from conversations quickly so that you can maximize the limited time you have to network.

I usually have a sorting system at any networking event that gives me an ability to quickly file contacts according to how relevant they are to my business. If I get a great and useful contact, I put my new networking contact’s business card in my front left pocket. If I have no immediately apparent use for a new contact’s business card, their card goes in my back pocket. When I get home, I have all my high priority contacts already sorted.

If you find someone that you have synergy with, get their contact info and schedule a future based physical meet up with them. Setting a date in the future to meet up shows to your new contact that they are important to you. In-person meetings usually have a higher sales closing rate and can create a greater sense of connection between yourself and your new contact than just connecting over LinkedIn or email after an event.

7. Follow up.

So by the end of the night, I usually come home with more business cards than I can count. From my experience, you have about 48 hours to reach out to these contacts you just met or else they may forget that they ever met you. So make sure to sort through all of your most important connections and leads for your business and contact those first. I recommend connecting with all of your new connections on LinkedIn.

If you don’t have the time to follow up with all of these people yourself, outsource it to your assistant, family members, intern, or anyone else you feel you trust with this task.

8. File your contacts properly.

A lot of people I know don’t keep an archive of all of their contacts. You never know the day that one of your previously less useful contacts may become exactly what you need in the future. I usually assign a keyword or phrase to all my “useless” contacts and put all of that data into one master spreadsheet (or you can do so in your CRM). That way in the future, I can search for resources if I ever need something in the future. Having this system ensures you will almost never have a crisis when you are looking for resources on demand.

Matthew Winters is the owner of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio , a Full-Service 2D & 3D animation studio, advertising agency, and video production studio. As one of Austin's movers and shakers, he also founded Speed Friending Events which produces networking mixers and social events in over 14 cities nationally. Matthew is dedicated to providing solutions to social and technology related issues in the industry.

Business News

Target’s plan to beat Amazon involves more openings

(BUSINESS NEWS) Retailers everywhere are feeling the pressure from Amazon. Yet, Target is taking that pressure and producing more stores.

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As the battle of online versus physical retailers continues, Target has decided to combat Amazon in an unfamiliar way. Target plans to open new locations as opposed to online markets. With new and remodeled stores they hope to get customers, new and old, shopping again.

Target representatives have already announced their plan to remodel numerous stores, and they are already expanding it.

They recently added 325 stores to the list and plan to have 1,000 revamped stores by 2020. There is no doubt that Amazon played a part in their initiative.

While other major retailers like Walmart have expanded their online services to stay afloat, Target wants to go back to basics. Why compete with Amazon in the online realm?

The remodels were planned according to the customer feedback.

Adjustments will be made from floor to ceiling – literally. Some plans reveal additions to the grocery section which will now include beer and wine.

In order to cater to customers in a rush, new stores will have separate lines for online orders, a pickup counter and grab and go food.

Target will expand their floor plans to include an additional entrance and curved aisles to highlight new merchandise. There will even be an outdoor section for visitors dragged along on a shopping trip to chill.

A remodeled store in New York was tested and reportedly sales boosted by at least 2%. CEO Brian Cornell is hoping for the same results with all of the newly remodeled stores.

In addition to revamping their current locations, Target is also testing a small-format design. This small store is meant for more highly populated areas.

Specifically, they will be popping up in cities and near college campuses. This is an untapped market for Target, which could bring even more sales in the future.

Target has already opened 55 small-format stores and plan on opening another 120 by late next year.

As for new, large-scale Targets, 32 have popped up around the country this year but there’s always more. Customers can expect to see another 25 in 2018.

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Business News

You can now make Amazon returns at Kohl’s

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is teaming up with Kohl’s to give shoppers a few of the brick and mortar conveniences with online shopping.

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With online retailers giving brick-and-mortar stores a run for their money, some brands are choosing to collaborate, rather than compete. Kohl’s has announced that it will team with Amazon to create “Amazon Experience” mini-stores within Kohl’s locations.

The companies are testing the concept with 10 stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas. If it goes well, they’ll expand that number to 82.

The Amazon Experience stores will be staffed with Amazon salespeople, but Kohl’s employees will run the Amazon returns counter. Customers can even bring unpackaged items from Amazon, and Kohl’s employees will help them pack and ship it back to Amazon, free of charge.

It seems that Amazon is looking to have more physical presence with customers and to make returns easier, while Kohl’s hopes to downsize their store space and generate revenue by renting to other brands.

Just this month, Kohl’s opened four smaller stores that have 60 percent less footage and 25 percent less inventory than their typical stores. Customers can still access the entire Kohl’s inventory at kiosks that also offer in-store pickup.

It’s clear that Kohl’s isn’t afraid to combine the brick-and-mortar and online experiences, and their collaboration with Amazon is further evidence that the brand is adapting to the digital marketplace.

“This is a great example of how Kohl’s and Amazon are leveraging each other’s strengths — ” said Richard Schepp, Chief Administrative Officer of Kohl’s, “ the power of Kohl’s store portfolio and omnichannel capabilities combined with the power of Amazon’s reach and loyal customer base.”

Industry experts predict that Amazon may find other ways to utilize their physical presence in Kohl’s to better serve customers.

Amazon has been dabbling in the world of fashion, and having mini-stores in Kohl’s could present an opportunity for Amazon customers to try on apparel before they buy, bolstering Amazon’s in-house apparel brands.

Apparel analyst Tiffany Hogan told CNBC “We could potentially see new Amazon lines popping up at Kohl’s.”

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Business News

IBM is putting blockchains to work for banks

(BUSINESS NEWS) IBM is putting blockchain tech to work so that they can launch a banking system for international transactions.

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Earlier this year, IBM unveiled its “Blockchain as a Service” based on Hyperledger Fabric, creating a public cloud service for customers to build secure blockchain networks.

Now the tech company announced they’re teaming up with payment company KlickEx Group and blockchain startup Stellar to change up the cross-border payment game.

The team is launching a blockchain-based system for banks, aimed to lower the cost and reduce settlement time for global payments for both businesses and consumers. International transactions typically take days, or even weeks, to complete.

Blockchains could speed things up, minimize errors, and provide more flexibility and transparency to banks. According to IBM, the collaboration “is intended to improve the speed in which banks both clear and settle payment transactions on a single network in near real time.”

In case you forgot what blockchains are, here’s a refresher course. Blockchains are a secure digital ledger of transactions with bits of information stored across multiple nodes in a network.

Since there’s no centralized hub, it’s less vulnerable to hacking.

Any time an action is taken, the ledger updates and that data is available to anyone with access to the blockchain. Additionally, each transaction is secured with digital signatures and encryption, providing transparency and security.

Blockchains can be used to trace and track transactions along every step of the way, providing a handy place to combine all product information besides just financial dealings.

For example, IBM suggested a hypothetical in which their system connects a Samoan farmer with an Indonesian buyer.

In this transaction, they stated, “the blockchain would be used to record the terms of the contract, manage trade documentation, allow the farmer to put up collateral, obtain letters of credit, and finalize transaction terms with immediate payment, conducting global trade with transparency and relative ease.”

Instead of scattered information, blockchains collect all relevant steps in a transaction. Currently, they system is used in twelve currency corridors, including New Zealand and the UK, as well as Australia and the Pacific Islands.

Within the next year, the system is expected to handle 60 percent of the South Pacific’s retail industry’s cross-border payments.

Bridget van Kralingen, Senior VP of IBM Industry Platforms, said in statement, “with the guidance of some of the world’s leading financial institutions, IBM is working to explore new ways to make payment networks more efficient and transparent so that banking can happen in real-time, even in the most remote parts of the world.”

Over a dozen banks are part of the initial pilot program, and plan to expand to Southeast Asia, South America, and other areas by early next year.

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