Networking! It’s that dreaded word that sends a spike of fear coursing through your veins. Everyone says you should but isn’t it all just awful self-promotion?
To start off with, if you do think it’s bad to self-promote when you are talking about your business then you need to do a quick 180 and accept that you really do NEED to talk about yourself and your business. Whether you are a shy and retiring type or the centre of attention in every room you visit, there is a way to get your message across that suits your personality. So don’t panic, as I’m here to say it’s not all about facing down the crowds to shout about your jewellery.
Let’s start with what I mean by networking. In brief, networking is a method of marketing your business to potential customers or business contacts, via face-to-face meetings or, more commonly now, through social media channels. It’s all about getting yourself seen and known by as many people as you can to increase the chance of meeting the right people at the right time. It’s also about support, both for yourself and for you to support others. The more active you are the wider your network will go.
It doesn’t have to be scary and can be as simple as having a nice chat with someone about your work and how much you enjoy it; hopefully from that chat the next time they meet someone who they think would like you or your product they recommend you. This adds an important personal touch that gives the potential customer/business contact confidence in you and your product.
You are doing what you do because you love it so just tell people that. If you are enthusiastic about your jewellery business and why you started it then people will want to listen.
Social Media networking
Starting to build a network isn’t that hard as social media has taken it to a whole new level by allowing you the chance to network from the comfort of your armchair. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of social media networking.
Join relevant Facebook groups that appeal to you and post what you are making. If someone posts a question you can answer then do that and ask questions too. Everyone has a slightly different view on things so it’s a great way to get advice, alternative opinions and support for your business.
Join Instagram and post weekly with tantalizing images of what you are making. Everyone loves a behind-the-scenes shot. Follow other jewellery makers you like and search for people who you think could help you enlarge your circle of contacts.
Attach your social media channels together, so make your posts work as hard for you as they can. These days you can share posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more, so you only have to write one post. Don’t solely rely on this though as you need to be ‘seen’ as actively interacting with others in whatever social media channel you choose. So you can’t just stalk in the background posting the odd ‘I’ve got this for sale’ post, you really need to get involved. Don’t get personal or rude though as that’s counter productive, and don’t worry that the group you are in has lots of other similar artists in it. Networking is as much about spreading ideas and support as it is about pushing sales.
Facebook groups are a great place to meet other makers
Think of it as being about keeping you inspired and proactive in your business, as well as giving you the chance to make a sale.
So on those down days when it all seems like really hard work and you are wondering why you do it, reach out to your network and get a few virtual hugs, it’s surprising how much they help.
Face to face
In the real world, networking can be a little harder to achieve but don’t let that stop you. If you are a woman working for yourself then look out for Ladies who Latte. They have groups all around the country that meet up for coffee and just to chat about everything and anything.
Do a bit of research in your local area and see if there are any jewellery groups to join. That’s still networking in a relaxed and fun environment. If there isn’t a local group, then think about starting one, you may not be the only person who wishes there was one (and if you already run one why not share the details in the comments below). Just meeting like-minded people for a coffee at the local café can be rewarding if you spend most of your business time alone working from home.
Whatever you do, networking is all about being yourself and simply sharing your story. Remember, you don’t have to build this network overnight; it takes time to build trust and confidence. Oh and if someone recommends you, always follow it up. You never know where that might take you.