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Building Client Relationships through Networking

Jennifer McLynch
Networking may be the most important advertising tool that you use to build long-lasting client relationships. Read through this story to find out why.
If you are a new business just starting out, you need all the help you can get when it comes to advertising your services. Though print advertising can be effective, it can also be expensive, which is why networking may be your strongest tool to help get the word out about your business.
Not only is it cost-effective, it can also have a huge impact on potential clients, which in turn can directly affect the success of your venture.
One benefit of this tool, is the opportunity you have to sell your services face-to-face. When you mail out a postcard, letter, or place an ad in a publication, it is possible that the recipient will look at it and take your business into consideration the next time they have a need for your services, but you can never be sure.
When you speak with a person face-to-face, however, you can sense their level of interest, answer questions about your business, and determine which services may be of interest to them.
Networking allows potential clients to put a face and an image behind a business name, and can help facilitate a stronger relationship. Plus, if you have an in-person conversation with someone, they are more likely to remember you and your business the next time they see an advertisement for your services.

Do the Groundwork

So where do you start? Before you head out to network with potential clients, take some time to think about your business, the challenges you face, and the goals you want to reach. Remind yourself of why you got into it in the first place, and put down on paper your ideas for selling the product or service.
What are your strengths, what sets you apart from your competition, and what services do you want to focus on when speaking to clients? Most of all, think about why and how your services would be useful to them.
If you truly believe that you have a valuable proposition, and that your service is better than that of your competition, chances are you will be more effective when marketing your business. Your confidence will come through in your conversations if you believe in what you're selling.
So take the time to remind yourself of why your business is valuable, before you actually jump into it.

Do a Mock Meeting

It is also a good idea to practice selling your service to others. Imagine yourself having a conversation with a future client, and practice what you would say and how you would answer anticipated questions.
You will probably deliver a better presentation if you focus on a few main points. So rather than listing out all the different services you offer, focus on a few main points that you want to highlight, and move forward from there.

Choose a Venue

Once you have had an opportunity to prepare yourself, it's time to choose the best networking venues. Think about the industry you are in, and seek out venues that will complement your services.
If you surround yourself with people who may need your services, you will have a better chance of selling them effectively. Also, if you focus your attention on a particular industry, your passion for the field will come through in these conversations.

Build a Database and Follow Up

Lastly, networking provides you with a great opportunity to begin building a database of leads for future mailings, so don't be afraid to ask for contact information. That being said, make sure to follow up with any leads you have soon after you meet.
Whether it is by phone, email, through a letter, or postcard, acknowledge your meeting by following up on your conversation. You can even add personal elements to your follow-up materials by handwritten notes, or telling them how much you enjoyed speaking with them during the event.
They are more likely to remember you and your business if you take the extra effort to follow up. This is a great way to reinforce your services to potential clients.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to networking. It is an inexpensive and extremely valuable way for you to market your services. It not only helps potential clients put a face to a business name, but also has the opportunity to create a lasting impression.
So whether you are just starting out, or need to enhance your customer base, put that effort into networking to turn your business into a successful venture.