Monday, September 28, 2015

Networking and Training

The market ready program has been busy the last few weeks. This last month and a half has sent us to a variety of different locals. We have traveled to Huntington West Virginia to help support the extension office there in a training event, visited Indianapolis for the Taste of Piazza convention, and are currently working on updating and redesigning the market ready website. All of this activity has been tiring but more than productive!

In this post we would like to recap some of these events and discuss how participating in them as a producer can benefit your business endeavors. We will take a look at the networking opportunities inherent in being active in your industries events, such as the Taste of Piazza convention, as well as the overall gains that can be made in brushing up on your business savvy through attending a training event.

To begin let’s talk about what networking is and why it is so important to a small scale producer who is trying to increase their share of the market.

Technically the word networking is a verb, and is defined as “connecting as or operating with a network; or, interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career”. The last part of this definition is what should interest us the most, and is indeed the manner in which we will use the term ‘networking’ in this post. So we can see that someone who is using networking to their advantage is in fact engaging in a physical activity, as well as a social one.
When you begin to network, time and energy are the currency in which you will be dealing. In order to make sure you are spending those as judiciously as possible ask yourself a few questions before engaging in networking activities:

What kind of people should I be looking to talk to at an event?

 How can I help the people I do talk to?

 Do I have a genuine and authentic ‘pitch’ (explanation) of what I am offering?

 Am I prepared to give and receive contact information quickly and                                                   professionally?

 How will I follow up with my new acquaintances and turn them into                                                customers/allies?

Once you are prepared, and find yourself at a networking event, such as the Taste of Piazza convention the market ready crew visited, it’s time to get to work. However, the most important thing to remember is that even though you are there to advance yourself and others in the world of business, being genuinely yourself, and enjoying the experience is extremely important. People will respond better to you, and you will garner stronger relationships if you are simply being yourself.

After the event has ended, look through the information you have collected and decide what to prioritize, and what can wait. Once you have determined the most important information, it is essential to follow up in a meaningful way. This can be accomplished through a variety of activities:  thank you cards, sending more information about your company, connecting via social media, a phone call to place or take orders…etc.

So why does networking matter, and why should we do it?

Networking provides you as a business person the opportunity to meet people who you would otherwise never have crossed paths with. This can benefit you in several different ways. The most obvious is providing you with new customers. It can also introduce you to products and services which might be useful to your own business operations. You might even find a market you never knew existed! There are so many potential benefits to networking; just be sure you approach the situation prepared and take full advantage of each new situation. And above all else…HAVE FUN!

Attending conventions and mingling with other agricultural types is a lot of fun, but the main goal of Market Ready is to host training events. This is where our program really gets a chance to shine, and where you as a producer can get the most benefit from our team.

Our most recent training event took place in Huntington, West Virginia and was produced by Cindy Martel who is with the WV Department of Agriculture. Cindy put on a fantastic day of market ready training! We heard from a diverse group of buyers, and even got a visit from the WV Agricultural commissioner. All in all the day was full of great information for producers and trainers alike.
So what can you expect as a prospective Market Ready participant? Here is an excerpt from our website detailing the Market Ready training program experience:

“During our training, we work our way through the key business functions listed above, and we discuss the differing needs buyers have in restaurants, schools, and grocery/wholesale/retail businesses. We typically have a guest speaker panel from 11:30 to 12:30 with buyers from restaurants, schools, and/or grocery/wholesale/retail businesses. We also typically have representatives from state organizations, such as KCARD and KDA, present on the panel to inform farmers of helpful state resources and programs. Then we try to provide a truly local lunch, with as much local food as possible, and for the remainder of our time we
will cover the rest of the key business functions.”

If you are a producer who would like to advance the level at which your business operates, and perhaps break into new and larger markets, the Market Ready program is a great place to start. Be sure to keep an eye on our website for updates and listings for the next training session.

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Thank you for joining us as we endeavor to extend knowledge and change lives! See you next time.

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