There are plenty of SME networking events out there, but the bigger companies tend not to take much notice of such gatherings.
If you’re still growing in your pond, then it’s a worthwhile endeavour to figure out how you can get the attention of the sharks, whales and dolphins out there.
Why you should network with the big fish
Networking itself is an age-old way of creating new business prospects, new lines of advice, new contacts for referral, and new opportunities for sales.
While there’s certainly something to be said for networking with other SMEs, you should also set your sights on some of the larger, more established companies in your field. They are almost without exception better established—that means they have more funds, more connections, more experience and more possibility.
A relationship with a fellow SME may give you some good avenues of contact for potential sales and bouncing ideas around, but they are also clamouring to grow their business, so they won’t be good for much more than potential partnerships later on down the line.
Network with the individual, not the company
Large businesses can seem extra intimidating due to their sheer size. They operate as a well-oiled machine, which can make it hard to see the forest for the trees. Keep in mind that a connection with one person may be enough to get your foot in the door, and that one connection will be much easier to make when you can focus on the individual.
Use the contacts you do have
You may be able to take a detour on your path to connecting with the bigwigs through someone you already know. They don’t have to be in an established business, but they might know someone who might have a particular interest in your company.
Know your purpose
Are you looking to network simply for the sake of having contacts? To form a partnership? To increase sales?
Knowing exactly what you are looking for will help you focus your energies in the same way an advertising campaign will focus on a certain audience segment. When you do get the chance to talk to a desirable company representative, it’s likely they won’t have the time to beat around the bush. Be direct with what you want from the outset so they know where you stand.
Don’t give up on events
Training courses, seminars, industry conferences, associations, product launches and opening ceremonies can all hold the potential for meeting people from large companies.
Keep an eye out for such meetings and ask yourself if it’s the type you would attend if your own business grew out of the SME phase. If the answer’s a yes, there may be other likeminded professionals in attendance as well.
Ask how you can help them
The ultimate goal is for them to help you, but the means to that end may be for you to help them in some way first to get their attention.
If you can’t think of a way your products or services can be of use, you may be approaching the wrong sort of company. Alternatively, you can ask an employee at the company if there is a way for your business to help them. Be prepared to give more than you would for a contact at another organisation in the hopes that you will receive more than you’d gain from another organisation, too.