In person networking with other local small business owners is an important part of successfully growing your brand… and is one of the best ways to increase the likelihood for success. Not only can business networking help you grow your customer base and generate referrals, but it can also provide numerous opportunities for learning, development and personal growth.

Check out the tips below to improve your business networking approach, prepare yourself to make the most out of every business networking situation, and discover how to make a positive lasting impression on your clients, customers and local business peers.

1. Get into a Networking Mindset
Before you arrive at your next networking event or face-to-face network meeting, it’s a great idea to get into the right mindset. It may go without saying, but make sure you arrive early… use this time to mentally review your goals for networking and how you will be able to provide value to those you meet.

2. Be Prepared with an Elevator Pitch
One of the best ways to ease any anxiety you may have as you prepare for a business networking situation is by developing an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short description of what you do, who you work with and the value you offer to your customers or clients. The goal is to be able to deliver this “pitch” in 60 seconds or less, in a conversational way.

Follow this tutorial on how to write an elevator pitch to develop a pitch that hits on all of your high points. As you work to get the the words of your elevator pitch just right, take a look at these elevator pitch tips that will help you perfect your pitch.

Better Networking For Small Business Owners3. Put Yourself Out There at Small Business Conferences
You can’t network effectively as a small business owner unless you’re giving yourself access to business networking situations.

Small business conferences are a great way to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and create opportunities to make valuable connections.

Not convinced that a small business conference is right for you? Explore these 5 reasons you should attend conferences. And once you’re packed up and ready for the event, get focused by reviewing these tips for making the most of small business conferences.

4. Arm Yourself with Business Cards
Business cards are essential for business networking, whether you attend a small business conference, join a local networking event, or participate in a trade show as an exhibitor. Your business card not only provides the recipient with essential contact information, but it can also reinforce your brand and make you memorable.

This doesn’t mean that an off-the-wall business card is right for you, though. In fact, unusual business cards can often do more damage than good. You just need a business card that passes the trash test; here are tips for creating an effective business card.

5. Volunteer In Your Community
Find an organization working on a cause you care about, and volunteer a few hours a month. It’s great to step outside of your day-to-day work and contribute to a different mission, and you’ll meet people who care about similar things but most likely work in different industries.

6. Host Events
Rather than attending events, where you are one of many and may be out of your niche, host events outside of your industry. As host, you and your space are a natural focal point. In addition to this added prominence, your shifted role—from attendee to host—makes conversation easier and removes the pressure of being at the event with a specific agenda or mission.

Here are some ideas for the type of events that are great:

  • Client / Customer Appreciation Parties
  • Bring in a speaker that is an expert in a field that will help your network / referral team grow their businesses. (Ex. Social Media Expert, Small Business Tax or Legal Professional, Marketing Guru…)
  • After Business “Happy Hour / Mixer” – Drinks and Appetizers might be just thr trick… just organizing an opportunity to kick back.

7. Take Action
Honestly, all you need to do is get started. Don’t even think about it, just get started. If you want to become influential at anything, start by reading everything out there. Then start networking with people in that niche. Then start going to events. Then start writing about it. Then start speaking about it. Then become the expert in that niche. This is a sure way to build your network!

Business networking is an essential, and fun, part of developing a small business.

Take time to review these tips before you head out for your next networking event, and you will be ready to make a lasting first impression.

Can you help me add any tips to this list? If so, I would love to hear them… just comment below!