Getting the word out about your new product or service is one of the most important parts of starting a new business/endeavor. Networking is one of the most effective (and cost effective) methods of advertising both you and your business. At the same time, you’ll have to be careful in planning your networking activities. You will have a limited amount of time and money to accomplish your networking goals. This post will discuss Networking on a Budget. By budget, I mean budgeting both time and money–as we’re often short on at least one or the other.
Networking on a Budget, Tip #1 – Plan in Advance
And make the planning part of your networking. Call up important people in your industry, and see if you can take them to lunch. While there, ask them what activities they find useful and who you should talk to. At the same time, you’ll be letting an important figure in your industry know that you exist and have a business.
You would be surprised how willing people are to help you, even in a bad economy. If not, then they’re not worth having on your side in the first place.
Once you have an idea of the types of activities, clubs, charities, and other networking possibilities, you can figure out their cost and the budget.
Networking on a Budget, Tip #2: Make Effective Use of the Internet
The internet can really level the playing field between you and the larger companies. If you utilize an effective website, use the internet to communicate with people who might otherwise be outside your current social reach, or blog regularly, you may be surprised at the results. The best part about the internet is that it can be effectively utilized even with the smallest of budgets.
Networking on a Budget, Tip #3: Make Use Of Your Own/Natural Network
(Hopefully) There is no easier sell than to the people who really care about you: your family and friends. Even if they might not have a direct need for your product or services, you might be surprised at just who they know. Having a solid team of unpaid yet committed “cheerleaders” is quite a privilege.
Before going out and trying to network with strangers, make sure your extended natural network of family and friends is aware of your latest endeavor, and how passionate you are about it. Give them an elevator pitch just like everyone else, so they can parrot it later on to potential customers.
Networking on a Budget Tip #4, Decide on Whether You Have Money or “Sweat Equity” to Offer
There are some networks that you can buy your way into. Other networks require “sweat equity” for positive results. Determine which asset you have more of, time or money.
If you have more time then money, then you can try volunteering to take on roles within the organization that will put you into contact with a lot of different people. If your greater asset is the almighty dollar, then see what types of memberships could be valuable in raising your profile and connecting with your target audience.
Networking on a Budget Tip #5 – Don’t Just Participate–Lead
Leadership roles require you to participate regularly in an organization. They also, by their very nature, put you into contact with a lot more people (and in a much less forced setting). There’s no easier way to network than by having people come to you.
Finally, a leadership position gives you instant credibility. The more you take on leadership roles, the quicker your profile will increase.
More importantly for this blog post, it will increase the rate at which everyone knows who you are, and what you do/your company has to offer.
What are some of your additional tips for networking on a budget? How long does it take for networking (if done correctly) to start developing consistent leads? What are some of your networking success stories?