Thou Shalt Network, Network, Network
I was in the middle of writing what I thought should be the 3rd Commandment (Thou Shalt Use Content Marketing Effectively), but stopped when I kept getting caught up in Networking (which was slated to be the 4th Commandment).
There’s really nothing more important than networking.
If you have a clear idea of what your business is, how it compares to existing businesses (or lack thereof), and you have mapped out your marketing strategy, then what you really need to be spending time on is making connections, collaborating with people who believe in you and your idea, and (hopefully) convincing some businesses to invest in you!
This could happen by effectively utilising content marketing, but it will really make a difference if you get in front of real people.
Here’s some tools you need:
1. Business cards. As archaic as they seem, people forget names all the time, and unless they have their phone on them and want to take your info right then and there, it’s much more convenient to hand them a card with all the relevant information, grab theirs, and be on your merry way to the next contact.
2. An elevator speech. People are busy and distracted. Can you sum up what you do and what makes your business/service/product unique in 30 seconds or less? Can you also roll with the punches and tailor the pitch to your audience after learning what company they work for? If you need advice on a great elevator speech, find it here.
3. Passion. It might seem obvious, but if you’re not excited about what you do/produce, no one else will be either. Get pumped about you and your business, and your ability to effect change.
4. Confidence. Don’t be shy! People at networking events are there to network and WANT to chat with people. It’s up to YOU, and ONLY YOU, to put yourself and your ideas/business/product out there and nothing will be successful if you stand in the corner all day. I’m not suggesting you take a shot of vodka before a networking event, but you should find some way to psych yourself up before going!
Now, where should you, a burgeoning food entrepreneur go to network?
Well, you could start by attending Institute for Justice’s Recipe for Success FREE conference. More details here. At this conference you’ll be able to learn about HOW to start a food biz (financing, legality, marketing, etc.), you’ll be able to NETWORK, and hopefully you’ll feel more confident (even if you’ve been rejected by businesses a few times) and secure in picking yourself up and getting back on the horse!
Check out Meetup.com groups, local organisations like Slow Food Chicago, The Chicago Community Trust, or head over to a meal share via MealSharing.com and meet people who are crazy about food just like you. You never know who you’ll meet! Keep your eyes open for opportunities everywhere – local restaurants, grocery stores, etc.