All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not quite so equal, people STILL want to do business with their friends. —Jeffrey Gitomer, “Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness”
Believe it or not, not all networking is done online. Of course, social media is a strategic part of any networking/marketing plan, but it is not the only element for a well-rounded approach.
The most important reason to network online as well as in person is to be able to market and promote your business, your jewelry and skills, yourself, and your brand to people who might be interested in purchasing your work. The more successful you are at getting your name in front of the people who have the money and interest in your work, the more successful your business will ultimately become. Jeffrey Gitomer in his “Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness” (which I highly recommend) states, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills.”
The basic tool for networking is to listen to the people you are meeting and find out what you can offer them that has “value” to them. But most of all it is about listening! Did you hear me?…listen! And the best way to get information you want from someone is to ask good and pertinent questions. Remember: Listen and ask good questions!
So where will you do your networking? If you have a gallery or store, or you offer a service locally, then you definitely want to focus on local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or networking clubs or organizations. Join local art, craft, jewelry and designer organizations. If you design flower jewelry, join the local garden club. If you design golf jewelry…go golfing. If you design children’s jewelry, attend parent meetings, school programs or teacher events. Do you have a local chapter of Jewelers of America or the Women’s Jewelry Association in your area? Have you joined? Take business classes or workshops, you never know who you are going to meet. Host events such as a happy hour or a class in your studio or home. Many cities and towns host a First Friday Art Walk, a Meet the Artist event, Happy Hour, or Gallery Hop. Take full advantage of these casual, wonderful opportunities to meet people who are interested in the arts and crafts.
If you are wholesaling your work/skill then you should always consider trade shows. They are an invaluable way to get your name out there to that market. In part three and part four of my recent four-part blog post series on “Doing a Show,” I discuss many aspects of networking at a trade show. Remember, these venues are where buyers congregate. It is the place to meet other wholesalers, stores and galleries, the press, and potential suppliers and subcontractors.
Wherever and whenever you go, even if it is to the pharmacy or to the playground with your children, make sure you always have some business cards on you. Because you often end up networking in the strangest places. Be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that might come your way, even standing in line at the grocery.
And if you make jewelry, you can’t go anywhere anymore without wearing your own work. I promise you, it gets boring wearing the same old pieces you spend your days putting together and all you would love to do is wear something that you didn’t make…well…those days are over. (Hint: Every single jewelry designer I know gets tired of wearing their own jewelry. They might not tell you that, but it is the truth.)
The other complaint I get when telling clients to network is they feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in front of others. I always suggest taking it in small steps. Go to events. Talk to people with whom you feel comfortable. Ask questions. And, MOST important—Listen! That way you don’t have to talk until they ask you a question, at which point you should be feeling a bit more confident. However, the important thing is to show up and show up with business cards and information about your business.
Your goal is to get out of your gallery or studio, off your computer, and get out there. There is a whole big world of networking possibilities waiting for you and your work/skills. Go discover it!