Traveling to a co-working space, only to hunker down with your headphones and zone out might be a great way to be productive. But you’re missing out on an opportunity to grow your business.
Since no one wants to be known as the guy who markets like a used-car salesman when everyone is trying to get things done at work, spreading awareness about your business in a co-working space requires being respectful of the people and the space when you talk about your work.
The most important aspect of any networking conversation? Being authentic. Here are five ways to do just that:
1. Strike up conversations and be conversational.
At first, this might mean asking if someone wants to go with you on a coffee run. Or initiating a conversation could start in the copier room by asking something as simple as “How long have you been a member?” Tiffany Han, a life and business coach as well as my friend, found opportunities to connect during the classes offered at the San Francisco co-working space Makeshift Society.
“I was able to meet people who were part of my target client market," she told me. "But instead of having sales conversations, we bonded over a course.” Keep things focused on having a conversation, rather than prospecting for an opportune moment to pitch your business.
2. Suggest a work trade.
When you meet someone who offers you something you need, try swapping it for something that person needs. The benefit of this approach is that other members of the co-working space might hear about your services.
For example, if you’re a graphic designer and another member does public relations, suggest a swap of services. Everyone who sees her new business cards will learn that you (the person sitting at the desk right there) designed them.
3. Share knowledge.
Matt Moller and Natasha Juliana, co-founders of WORK in Petaluma, Calif., host informational talks that feature members. “The co-working mentality is one of openness,” says Juliana, who is also a friend of mine. “You don’t have to share your trade secrets, but sharing your knowledge can not only help a fellow co-worker, but also lead to future gains. It’s highly likely that at some point you’ll be on the receiving end of useful knowledge.”
4. Create useful promotional materials.
Pens, a stapler and Post-its with your business name and URL are all things that are needed around a co-working space. You can leave them on your desk and in some cases, the break room, for free. Because these are useful items that are routinely needed in co-working spaces, people will seek them out rather than you needing to push them.
5. Let your passion be on full display.
There’s a difference between selling and just having passion for what you do. When you sell, you’re trying to overcome customers' objections to get them to buy something. When you simply let your passion for what you do be on full display, you arouse curiosity and build relationships.
Perhaps the person you’re talking with has no need to purchase your offerings. But if she feels like you’re easy and fun to talk with, she’ll recommend you to others because she likes you and wants to be helpful.
A co-working space can only be what you make of it. And it can be so much more than just another place to get work done. The potential for networking within a co-working space is one of the major advantages. When done right, this networking can be low-key and feel as simple as having a conversation around the watercooler with new friends.
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur Media is an investor and partner with AlleyNYC, a co-working space in New York City.