Sharon Markowitz goes out of her way to make every networking meeting she hosts memorable.
Markowitz, the manager for the Law Offices of Aaron Katsman in Valley Stream, N.Y., hosts several networking events each year, building each gathering around a theme and pairing them with special networking gifts.
“Last March we did a basketball playoff networking event, and I gave out a lot of items with a basketball theme,” she said. Among the unique business giveaways they passed out were branded orange basketball-shaped stress relievers and basketball-themed fidget spinners.
Swish—nothin’ but personalized basketball PromoSpinners!
But the gatherings aren’t just known for their cool swag. Because her firm specializes in real estate law, the networking events are designed to help local real estate professionals make connections and build long-term business relationships.
“We’ve gotten business from a number of attendees who need our services, while also assisting our guests to form partnerships with each other,” Markowitz said.
“The feedback I receive after each event clearly indicates that this is exactly what happens.”
The best kind of networking is all about building these kinds of relationships. Or, as noted in Forbes®, “Networking is 9 to 5; relationships are forever.”
Benefits of networking
Every business can benefit from networking—and creating relationships. And yet, one out of four professionals currently doesn’t network at all. And 41 percent of people want to network more but don’t have time to do so.
That’s unfortunate, because networking has a number of benefits:
Meet people online
If you’re trying to build or increase your business network, social media is an excellent place to start. According to Entrepreneur, the best way to start networking is by learning where your connections spend their time on social media. For example, 97 percent of B2B companies use LinkedIn for their content marketing. They also use the platform to share their expertise and build relationships with other companies.
Spa consultant Julie Pankey is a big believer in networks—both online and in person. “I’ve been in this business for 26 years now,” Pankey said. “My first job was opening a new spa. My boss said, ‘I want you to get this spa to $2 million in five years.’ I realized I couldn’t do it alone, but I had a network of spa masters across the country who could and would help me.”
Today, Pankey is a managing partner of JMPankey Partners, a group of spa consultants. She’s also a founder of SpaHive, a private online community for spa professionals that holds in-person networking events multiple times per year.
“A lot of people are in the same situation I was in when I felt like I had no one to turn to and no one to ask questions to,” Pankey said about creating SpaHive. “This community and these events bring together a group of peers, creating a network of people who are there for each other and are there to help each other succeed.”
Once you’ve made the decision to get more social online, it’s time to start sharing and conversing:
- Share relevant, timely content on your page to generate conversations with your network.
- Seek out and follow businesses that are relevant to yours. This will also help you keep on top of coming changes to your industry.
- Post thoughts that show thought leadership and cause other businesses to seek you out.
- Depending on the platform, you can also join relevant groups and answer questions posed by other people.
Get out and meet people
While online networking can help you build relationships—and your business—getting out of the office can be an even better way to help your network grow. In fact, nearly 100 percent of people feel face-to-face meetings are necessary for long-term business relationships.
Fundera® suggests three ways you can get out and network:
1) Join an organization
Organizations can range from very casual to business-focused, with varied participation requirements:
- Casual contact networks: These groups are usually made up of professionals networking regardless of the industry. They generally meet once a month to mingle.
- Community service clubs: Although not focused on business, these groups can bring professionals together in a more casual way and lead to important business connections.
- Strong contact networks: These networks are often much more dedicated to finding work for people within the group, often meeting once a week to discuss strategy.
- Professional associations: These groups are generally not about drumming up business, but about solving problems and discussing changes in a specific industry.
2) Attend conferences
Conferences can provide the opportunity to network with people across the country—or around the world. Conferences offer the opportunity to connect with major influencers, see speakers and engage in learning opportunities, all while allowing you to expand your network exponentially.
3) Host events
Much like the Law Offices of Aaron Katsman, hosting an event can accomplish many goals, including building your network and keeping your business top of mind.
Pankey has also seen how networking events have helped professionals form business relationships they might not have otherwise been able to build. Though she describes her events as “non-salesy,” her gatherings give spa decision makers access to vendors they might not otherwise have been able to get.
Pankey’s events also give her the opportunity to hand out networking gifts that get long-term use and keep her organization top of mind. To accomplish these goals, she chooses a practical item, like a padfolio.
Make the most of your networking time
If you’re looking to improve your networking skills, PRNews offers simple steps to help you make industry connections:
Come prepared with objectives
Know what you want to get out of the event. Going in with a plan will help you build the right connections.
Practice your networking skills
If you’re new to networking, practice introducing yourself to people. And when you go to networking events, carry an interesting book or another accessory to make it easy for people to ask questions to break the ice.
Drop an email or connect on social media with those you meet. At one Aaron Katsman law office event, Markowitz gave away an overnight bag, complete with a brown teddy bear. “We raffled it away as part of a gift basket,” she said. “And then we asked the winner to pick it up at our offices, so they got a nice prize, and we got to spend some time getting to know each other better.”
A better network is key to a better business
There are several ways you can build your business network with the help of networking gifts to keep you top of mind. Here’s to creating an amazing network!
At your next networking event, ditch the business card and try something new!
Your contact information and a fun message can go on anything!