Networking may well be a word that strikes fear into the core of your being if you don’t consider yourself to be a naturally confident person.
It can make people feel queasy, anxious and even stressed just thinking about it; but all of this we can control if we change our thinking about networking. Trust me, I’ve done it.
Why network? What is networking?
So why would we/should we choose to network if it really is something we are not comfortable with? Surely it’s better to just find another way of meeting people? Well, I believe there are many benefits to networking.
Networking is a way to build relationships. Effective networking is not speed dating, it is not a case of meeting as many people as you can and ‘banking’ their cards. It’s based on the idea of connecting with people.
Going to a networking event to meet 100 people has little value. People do business with people they like and have engaged with, so you need to build up trust and a relationship with them, which takes time. The relationships are based on authenticity and your core values.
It’s no secret that I network, and I enjoy it! However, it hasn’t always been that way, I am naturally a shy girl and it’s my default state, so putting myself out there and meeting people is always a bit scary.
We have all been faced with the prospect of networking at some point or another. For some, it’s a piece of cake but for others (myself included) it takes a little more thought and practice to be comfortable in a networking environment.
After being in the industry for nearly 20 years I have found a few ways to find confidence in myself, get out there, and build relationships. I am going to share with you a few of my top tips on how you can get there too.
I believe the easiest place to start is in your own workplace. Get used to chatting to people here and practice your skills. You’re guaranteed to have something, or someone, in common when meeting new people at work, and this makes for easier conversation starters.
Find someone you would like to get to know and kick off the process, in whatever way you feel most comfortable. Chatting over a cup of tea, or attending an event can be an easy way in, but when you’re feeling braver, inviting them to lunch or to an external event could be your next move.
Alternatively, ask your friends and colleagues if they are attending any networking events soon, and go together, getting them to introduce you to new people. You can also ask event organisers to do this if you attend an event alone, and would like help meeting new people.
Bring something to the table
Successful networking is based on the philosophy of “how can I help you?” rather than “what can I get from you”. Think about that and how appealing that is to whoever you are chatting to. Most people welcome you with open arms when you ask “how can I help you?”
When going to an event, get the delegate list in advance, see who you might know, or do some research on people you think you might be able to help, then prepare who you want to approach when you get there.
This way you are going with a strategy of being a useful person for others to meet, and rather than worrying that no-one will want to talk you, you know you have value to offer people.
Before starting to network, it is important to give yourself a break and realise that you actually have already achieved things through networking. It is helpful to ask yourself: which parts of networking am I already good at?
What connections have I already made through networking (be it at the gym, when out with friends, or at an event?) These questions will help give you a confidence boost. I can guarantee you have already got some good networking skills and have used networking to make contacts in your personal life already!
The friend you met at the coffee shop, the man you spoke to on the bus or in the kitchen at work. These are all forms of networking- you just need to transfer these skills into another setting.
Still not feeling confident?
Of course, networking is not this simple, especially if you lack confidence. It takes a certain amount of social skills and self-confidence that not all of us possess. This is where the idea of false confidence comes in. Even the most confident person could be having a bad day and would need to fall back on this.
The idea is that we all have some confidence within us, even if we have to dig deep within ourselves, and it is about finding ways to bring this confidence to the surface.
There are many methods we can use to instil this confidence, the simplest being to just have a backup topic of conversation. I have cricket! I love talking about cricket and have found that this is a common ground with many of the men, and women, I meet at events. Having a conversation topic in mind allows you to relax and ease yourself in.
Adopting a persona can you get you through
One thing I do to make myself more confident is to adopt a persona; these personas are based on my personality traits but just exaggerated versions of me.
A lot of people use this method, both in real life and fiction. Take Superman as an example; he has Clark Kent as his persona and Clark is able to network with the newspaper industry.
Clark’s attributes seem completely opposite to Superman’s being quiet and shy but the core values stay the same. If you are quiet and shy you could take this example in reverse and use the confident Superman as your persona!
When I’m nervous or out of my comfort zone, I draw on a variety of personas to get me through the door, into the room and starting to chat to people. You can think of them like a shield – I am still my happy, smiley, bubbly self but just behind my shield.
After a while, I become more confident and am able to the lower the shield and do it on my own – although even I still have to rely on my personas from time to time.
If you feel nervous about networking there isn’t a magic cure, but I’m sure that if you start to view it differently you’ll start to find it a bit easier.
I hope you have found this useful and will try out some of my tips. From one introvert to another, you can do this – and find it fun!
7 Reasons Why Its Important to Have a Niche
A niche is a focused, targetable segment of the market. You are a specialist providing a product or service that focuses on the specific needs of an identified client group, which cannot or are not being addressed in such detail by the dominant providers in your industry.
But it is important to understand that there is, in fact, a difference between your identified niche and your target market.
Your target market is a specific identifiable group of people you work with, e.g. women in the city, technology start-ups, creative agency owners, small and medium businesses in a particular revenue range.
Your niche is the service you specialise in offering to your target market.
For example, standing desks are aimed at professionals who work in front of a computer for long periods of time. This is a well-defined niche.
Here are 7 reasons why it is important to have a niche:
To avoid spreading yourself too thin
Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin in saying that ‘everyone’ is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus on a specific grouping of people, and particularly on what their needs and wants are.
You will unlikely to be able to serve everybody, so it is important to focus on what you do best and aim it at a specific group of people who will likely buy what you offer.
It is important to find out what is important to them, what blogs they read, their beliefs and attitudes, who the main influencers in that network are.
Having these insights means that you can develop products or services specifically aimed at this group, based on your thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are interested in.
It’s easier to identify and target potential clients and partners to work with
As the pool of people that exists for a niche is smaller than its mainstream equivalent, it will be easier to identify potential clients and partners to work with, as you can be much more targeted and laser-focused with your marketing efforts.
It’s easier to become an expert and well known in your niche
Niching means it will be much easier for others to understand ‘what you do’ and ‘for whom’, which will make it easier to position you as an expert in your field. As this group is more targeted and of a smaller size, you can rapidly become well known within this group of people.
Your profile and overall visibility will increase within this group. It is a small world after all!
More and better referrals
Since it will be easier for others to understand what you do and for whom, it, in turn, becomes much easier for them to refer more and better quality clients to you that fit the profile of your ideal client, as you have built up trust, credibility, visibility, and it is very clear as to what your specialism is.
The more unique you are, the less competition you will have
There will be less competition, as you will provide the specific services or create the specific products for the specific people you are seeking to help in a specific way that meets their needs. The BIG advantage of becoming more unique is that usually it can’t be easily replicated by your competition!
Marketing becomes much easier
Effective niche marketing should really help with your marketing, positioning and branding as you will attract the ‘right people’ much more easily and quickly. People with similar interests tend to behave and are attracted to similar things. This means that many of your clients will do all the hard work for you as they will refer you more and more because your profile, credibility and influence are readily apparent within your tribe.
More repeat business
As you are able to provide an increasingly better service or product, based on your specific client’s needs, it is likely that you will get more repeat business – people will come back for more, and as an added benefit will often start spending more with you as your relationship grows with them.
4 Things That Are Slowing Down Everyday Business Processes
A modern business needs a lot of things to be successful.
High-quality products that capture the attention of your target market are an excellent first start. However, you also need robust marketing strategies, a strong team of dedicated workers, and a plan for continued growth and evolution.
A good company is like a well-oiled machine. One cog turning out of time could bring your entire enterprise grinding to a halt. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the things that are slowing down your crucial processes and preventing your company from reaching its true potential.
Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the things that could be hampering your everyday business processes, so that you can make a valuable change.
How many people in your business are wearing multiple hats?
The chances are that if you’re a small and growing company, you have endless executives and employees rushing from one task to another. You may even be asking your team members to take part in activities that aren’t closely connected to their job roles.
While it’s fine for everyone in your organization to pitch in a little extra at times, it’s important to make sure that this doesn’t give way to constant multitasking.
Research proves that multitasking kills productivity and reduces the quality of the work produced. That’s because when you’re multitasking, you’re continually forcing your brain to switch from one thing to another, so you can’t truly focus on anything.
If multitasking is a common problem in your organization, then it might be time to reassess your workflow and see where you can create more focused teams. Try to give the right task to the right people to prevent inefficiencies.
Maybe allowing your senior leaders to delegate more of their work will make them more successful. Perhaps taking extra jobs away from lower employees and keeping everyone focused on their areas of expertise will help.
The last thing you want for your business is that your employees don’t have time to do the job they were hired for.
If you have to switch employees between different tasks frequently and it’s slowing down work progress, maybe it’s time to add a new employee to your team. Alternatively, look if some processes can be outsourced to a company or a freelancer.
#2 Inefficient Meetings
Increasingly, companies are beginning to feel as though most meetings are nothing more than a waste of time. For years, we relied on face-to-face interactions in boardrooms to make sure that everyone in our team remained on the same page.
However, by now, we have learned that this kind of disruptive activity is no longer necessary.
Although the occasional meeting can be useful to connect your employees and bring people together in a more intimate environment, most of the time, you can switch a meeting out for broadcast on a collaboration app.
You could even consider allowing your employees to dial into a video meeting so that they don’t have to leave their office.
Pulling your team members out of their workflow so that they can take part in meetings when you could have shared the same information in an email is a dangerous waste of time.
The next time you’re planning a meeting, ask yourself whether it’s necessary to bring people together in a conventional sense. If it is, ensure that you’re only inviting the most relevant people to the room.
Once they leave the meeting room, everyone should know exactly why their input was required and what are the next steps they need to take.
#3 Lack of Insights
Let’s face it – data makes the world go around. We’re living in an era where information is everywhere, and it’s crucial to making our companies more effective.
The good news is that the majority of today’s companies have systems in place that allow them to capture intelligence information from everything from their sales calls to their marketing campaigns.
The bad news is that most organizations simply don’t know how to use their insights to improve their business operations. If you’re not taking advantage of the benefits of real-time and historical data analysis yet, it could be the perfect time to get started.
Sit down with the other leaders in your team and figure out some goals that you want to accomplish. From there, you can determine what kind of information you need to reach your goals.
For instance, if you want to make your marketing campaigns more successful, it makes sense to look at the marketing initiatives that have worked for you in the past.
You might also want to tap into information about your target audiences and their pain points too. This data could help you identify areas that you can improve to offer your customers an excellent experience at every touchpoint with your business.
#4 Preventable IT Issues
Finally, another thing that we’ve come to recognize in the digital era is that IT can either be your friend or your enemy. In many cases, the right technology in your company’s landscape can accelerate growth and generate new opportunities.
Knowing how to make the most of the assets at your disposal can significantly improve daily business operations. Implementing some new solutions can help you get there, too.
AI and machine learning are no longer terms out of science fiction novels. People have taught robots to interact with each other and with other people, and solve problems in the process.
For a great example of how this achievement can speed up daily business operations, just look at chatbots. Chatbots can drastically reduce the time it takes to answer repeat customer questions and queries. Your employees could spend this time on more important tasks and projects.
Also, chatbots can work around the clock. There’s no denying that having a 24/7 customer service is a great asset to your business. However, due to the high costs of maintaining a contact center, in most cases, it’s not a viable solution.
In such scenarios, chatbots can step in, respond to simple queries, and redirect more complicated issues to a human.
Chatbots enable you to reduce time, money, and human labour, which you can then reallocate into growing your business.
If you have enough people on your team, offering live chat is another way to bypass long workflow procedures and ticketing systems that might be annoying to your customers. An agent can handle more than one chat at a time and still give the customer a personalized approach.
The list of benefits of a live chat for a business is long. It boosts customer convenience, satisfaction, and loyalty, helps your business respond to their pain points faster and opens another channel for upselling.
However, there’s also a chance that poorly-managed technology could slow your business down and stop your team from completing their goals. Remote working trends or bring your own device trend (BYOD) are especially sensitive to these issues.
While it’s always possible that IT issues might happen in your workforce, you can put strategies in place to protect yourself from any major downtime or disruptions.
For instance, teaching your team members how to manage work equipment on their own, and providing them with the knowledge to troubleshoot any issues they face means that you can keep your organization running smoothly.
At the same time, this frees up time for your IT employees, who can focus on finding ways for you to use technology to accelerate your business growth, rather than just responding to the same old preventable problems.
Time to Speed up Your Business Growth
A company is a dynamic and ever-changing thing. Unfortunately, it’s also very fragile. When something as small as a single process doesn’t work properly for your company, you begin to see negative repercussions everywhere.
The good news is that taking the time to examine your business workflow and figure out areas where systems can be improved can make your venture more efficient and successful.
From working on preventable IT issues to reducing the number of meaningless meetings your team members are exposed to, there are plenty of ways that you can make your company into the well-oiled machine that it needs to be.
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