Anyone that knows us, understands that we are huge networking geeks. We love learning about people and think our backgrounds in sales and psychology has a big part to do with this. Networking is an activity that can boost your photography business substantially. It puts your face to your brand. You become the go to person and the expert in your field.
Successful networking is a combination of having confidence and being prepared. Knowing how to network is a key skill in today’s business world. As you network, you will begin to build your group of biggest advocates for your business. But only if you network with professionalism.
Here are four tips on how to network with professionalism. Use these as a starting point to begin to build your network of influencers, prospects, and future clients.
1. Remember networking is all about building relationships.
This is the number one thing about networking that unfortunately many people get wrong. Networking is not an opportunity to give your sales pitch. In fact, the more that you do that at networking events, the more you will turn people off. The idea of networking is to get a conversation going and build a like, know, and trust factor, so you become top of mind when people think of your industry. You don’t want to be just “a photographer” but “the photographer”.
2. Ask easy and engaging questions.
This is a great tip, especially if you are more on the introverted side. It can be very intimidating to walk into a room of people that you don’t know, and one of the most common questions we get asked about networking is “What exactly do I talk about?”
Listen to what others are saying and ask questions related to them. People love to talk about themselves, and if you spend more time finding out about others, rather than dominate the conversation talking about yourself, you will build better rapport with the people you meet.
A smile can go a long way. By smiling you will not only put your nerves at ease, but you will be more approachable and inviting to others. Have good eye contact with others to begin conversations.
Remember, it only takes one or two people that you initially have conversations with to help be a connector for you in future networking opportunities. This is how your network will grow over time and it all starts with being engaging from the beginning.
4. Remember to follow up.
Networking is where the conversations begins, not ends. It is very important to have a follow-up system and not drop the ball if a great conversation was started. This is an opportunity to schedule a follow-up coffee meeting to learn even more about the person you met. Remember, this is about building relationships, which takes time.
The individuals you meet may not even be direct clients, but can lead you other networks where you will reach your clients. Never discount anyone. We always share a story that one of our biggest corporate clients came from a hobbyist photographer that worked for the company. You just never know where networking can lead you.
With follow-up, it is important to have a system in place, so you can track communications you have with each individual. We use 17hats and create a contact page for each individual we meet at networking events. We take their business cards and enter their information into a system and also categorize these individuals as an other contact, so we don’t get them confused with leads or prospects. By using a system, we can track what emails we sent or set reminders to follow-up with these individuals if we haven’t heard back from them after some time. It allows us to stay on top of communication and follow-up so we can continue to nurture the relationship.
Good networking skills come with time and practice. Step out of your comfort zone and commit to integrating networking into your business routine. The relationships that you create will be priceless, and the skills that you will gain will make you an even better entrepreneur.