How many times have you heard other Entrepreneurs talk about networking? It could be an event they attended last night, last week, online, offline…..it’s exhausting just listening to others discuss the topic, let alone doing it for your own Business! When it comes to marketing your Business, there is no one magical key that will make it work, you have to do a little bit of everything, including networking.
Everyone networks and sometimes, they don’t even know it. What exactly is networking, well there are tons of definitions and most of them are customized to sell someone’s product or service as it relates to networking.
But the plain definition is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or Business according to Webster’s Dictionary.
The keyword in that definition is productive, meaning it's working for both parties. That’s what this column will cover over the next few months. Some items you need to have in check before you start networking are:
What are your goals for networking, other than gaining more customers? Think about the other things you need in your Business, strategic partners, other services you need, when you have a need, you become a referral for someone else. How often do you want to network and how much time do you have. Like anything else worthwhile, this process takes time.
What do you want others to know about your Business? When you are asking for referrals, your needs will change as your Business progresses, so painting a picture for others to see is crucial to getting quality referrals. Keeping it fun and fresh.
How You Plan to Build Relationships
Networking in a sense is helping others so listening is key to networking. Asking questions is the key to the networking kingdom, the more questions you ask of others, the better you will be able to help them and vice versa.
Where You Plan to Network
Chamber events, trade shows, women-only, most cities you can find events to attend for breakfast, lunch and after hours. Keep your networking efforts under control and yield the best results by creating a networking calendar.
"The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work." -- Robert Kiyosaki
Integrating Networking Into Your Daily Life
Becoming a master connector will not only help others you do Business with but it will help you. Again, your needs are a referral for someone else, just like someone else’s need may be a referral for you.
Like any other marketing activity, you need to monitor your results. Make changes if necessary and always look to improve your results.
I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.
During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.
The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.
Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.
I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.
Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.
My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:
- Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
- Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
- Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
- Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!