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Low Cost Networking Techniques That Work
By: Stephanie Chandler

Business networking isn?t just for sales people anymore. In fact, it can be a savvy marketing strategy for virtually any entrepreneur. Whether you?re looking to land new clients, form strategic alliances or swap ideas with other business owners, it?s all possible when you get out and meet new people.

Where to Network

You have the chance to network whenever you meet someone for the first time. This can happen in line at Starbucks, at your kid?s little league game, or when you?re sitting in the doctor?s office waiting room. But if you really want to increase your exposure, your best bet is to attend networking meetings on a regular basis.

Most trade associations host networking events. Whether you belong to the local Chamber of Commerce or an industry-specific association, there should be plenty of opportunities to mingle with members.

There are also a variety of groups that meet for the sole purpose of networking. Some to investigate are and To locate other groups in your area, start by reading the events calendar in your local newspaper. Other good sources are and

Breaking the Ice

The act of networking can be intimidating. Often it means walking in to a room full of strangers and forcing yourself to strike up a conversation. For a lucky few this comes naturally, but for most it takes effort. You can make the process easier by having some conversation starters ready to go. Begin with the following suggestions and add some of your own to the list:

*How are you doing tonight?
*Are you having a good time?
*What kind of work do you do?
*How are you enjoying this event?
*Are you a baseball/football/basketball fan?

Keep in mind that the best networkers are the ones who ask questions and listen. People love to talk about themselves so you will naturally build rapport with someone when you get them talking. Eventually the tables will turn and they will ask about you. When they do, be prepared with a concise description of your business. Keep it simple; you don?t want it to sound like a sales pitch. Soon you may find that your businesses have synergies or that you?ve just met a new client or someone who will refer a new client to you.

Tips for Networking Success

Keep a pen handy so you can jot down details of your conversation on the back of a business card. Often times the details can get lost by the end of a long day so it?s helpful to make notes that will jog your memory later.

When you return to your office, enter new contacts into your database as soon as possible. It will help if you include details of where and how you met along with the notes you wrote on the back of each card. You?ll be glad you made the effort when you hear from the contact months later and can?t recall the exact details of your meeting.

Most importantly, when you meet someone interesting, be sure to follow up. You can send an e-mail or better yet, a hand-written note. You may even want to pick up the phone and set a coffee date. Don?t let opportunity pass you by! Your efforts will be fruitless if you don?t follow through.

Just as you can make valuable business contacts at in-person networking events, you can also find them around the world by logging on and participating in industry-related forums, chat rooms, and other networking venues. Some to investigate are,, and

Whether you get out and pound the pavement or meet new people from the comfort of your laptop, the fact is that networking is an inexpensive and effective way to expand your business. You can build networking into your marketing plan by planning to attend two or three meetings per month or participate in online forums for an hour each week. Commit these activities to your calendar just as you would any other important business engagement and soon you will be reaping the rewards of your efforts.

Stephanie Chandler is a small business expert and the author of FROM ENTREPRENEUR TO INFOPRENEUR: MAKE MONEY WITH BOOKS, EBOOKS AND INFORMATION PRODUCTS (Wiley, Dec. 2006) and THE BUSINESS STARTUP CHECKLIST AND PLANNING GUIDE (Aventine, Sept. 05). Visit to access hundreds of resources for entrepreneurs.