It's Business, Baby!
This week's It's Business Baby offering is the second in a two part post series from National Young Businesswoman of the Year, Cassie Lawrence. Cassie owns caricature cake topper companies Cake Top Characters, Cake Top Babies, as well as wedding blog Catching Bouquets. Cassie is also a freelance graphic designer, specialising in the wedding industry and is the Marketing Manager at Leading Women UK. She is also a member of the UCP Peer Committee and is passionate about people! She is the absolute queen of networking - whenever I find myself in a quandary regarding a networking event, I always think - 'What would Cassie do?' So if like me, you find offline networking the most difficult part of your business, read on...
Top Tips for Networking
Passion Sells – My toppest of the top of tips is, be passionate and genuine! Obviously I remain professional and relevant to the event I'm attending, but I literally just 'be myself', smile, and let my passion for my businesses shine through. I love people, and I love business – they fascinate me, so I am genuinely interested in hearing the stories and backgrounds of entrepreneurs, career girls, and wedding professionals! Listen to that person and have a warm and honest conversation – don't write them off and think they aren't of any use to you – you never know when someone might ask you for a recommendation for a clairvoyant, a supplier of African beads or a text message marketing expert – all of whom I have actually met!
It's Not all about you! - People who go to networking events and think 'what's in this for me' are like an open book. Yes, the end goal is to get more business, but networking is also great for building social contacts, getting help with different areas of your company, doing favour swaps or even landing your dream job (all of which I have got)! There are people I have met who have given me advice and suggestions I would never dream of considering and would have paid hundreds of pounds worth of business coaching to get my hands on. If you walk in the room with pound signs flashing in your eyes, you won't get far. Networking is about building (connections, business, knowledge) – if you want a quick fix then stay at home. Also, treat people like human beings! It sounds obvious but I was once having a great conversation with another female entrepreneur at an event and a woman barged loudly into our conversation to forcefully hand us her leaflets. We were stunned as we watched her walk around the room in the same rude and bulshy manner. If someone posted a link on your Facebook wall without any words or pleasantries, it would be marked as Spam. Safe to say that leaflet didn't make it home with me that night!
Get Specific – It's not all just workwear and formalities, there are lots of specific networking groups for people of not just your age, gender, location, or all of the above, but also your industry too. Get Googling and you will be surprised at what's out there. If standing in a hotel bar or conference room doesn't float your boat, there are also lots of interesting takes on traditional networking, for example in the South West I have seen networking in the form of a 'Come Dine with me' challenge, a kayaking evening, a pasty and pint at a brewery, as well as canapes at the famous River Cottage!
Be a walking website – People can access your website 24 hours a day, so why can't they access you? Always be on the ball and carry a stash of cards of flyers in your handbag – you never know who you might meet and where you might meet them! I have got business from a pub, a wedding reception and even when buying a car, so treat yourself as a walking website and remember that when you enter the room, you are your brand, your values and your product or service – not everyone has been to your landing page!
Wear your brand – In the same way, what you look like is important! I hate to say it, but it's true – first impressions count and people will remember you if you wear something striking, but that still suits you and your personality. One of our Leading Women network leaders remembers exactly what I was wearing when she first met me – a black and orange floral playsuit and a bright orange blazer with chunky wedges and big hair. I think that was probably because I wasn't wearing tights in March (brrrr!) but hey ho, I stuck in her mind as a bright and slightly crazy person, which is great, because that's what I am! I also have 2 necklaces, one saying '#Tweetme' and the other displaying my Twitter name! I have seen people at events who also only ever wear their brand colours. Sounds obsessive and slightly anal but actually, once you think about it you will be surprised just how often this goes on (Think Richard Branson's Virgin Red, Katie Price's baby pink, and Peter Jones with his range of executive socks – yes really, he has his own range)!
Stay Social – Just because you are face to face, doesn't mean that the beloved smartphone has to stay at home – lots of events have hashtags that you can use to stay in the loop. They are also great for finding out more about that cool girl in the corner of the room who looks like your ideal customer, or the guy opposite you who you are sure you are following but can't quite tell. Hashtags at events and networks bring the online and offline worlds together, and you can get a direct communication route to interesting contacts, without even asking for a card! Also, if a regular event has a Twitter account, look through their followers/following lists and see who goes! You can start to then build relationships before you even join!
There's an app for that – Use apps like Eventbrite or Meetup to find out what events, groups and networks are going on in your area. With the power of geo-location, your nearest meets are literally in the palm of your hand!
Oh, and one last thing, make sure you take some business cards! Sounds super-obvious, right? Wrong! You would be surprised at how many people I have met who say 'they are with the printer' – it's the 'grown up' version of 'the dog ate my homework' - if you don't have business cards, take brochures, flyers, leaflets – something tangible that people can take away with them – you never know who is out there who wants to meet you! (and an additional note from Sophie: Put your twitter handle on your business card! It's the quickest way these days for someone to continue that connection with you! Without it, your card will go into the huge to-do pile and probably get forgotten)
Women's Networking (UK-wide)
Wedding Networking (UK-wide)
- Ali Berry Wedding Networking (Cornwall)
- The Little Wedding Tweet-up
- South West Tweet-up
- Devon Face-up
- Big Fat Scottish Tweet up
- Brides up North
Business Networks (Cornwall only)
Image by Tim Walker for W Magazine, April 2013
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