Believe it or not, networking isn’t just about handing out and collecting business cards. It’s about connecting, establishing and building relationships that are beneficial to all the parties involved. But, how can you make sure that you’re building a powerful network?
Follow these seven tips, and you’ll be on your way to developing a strong and long-lasting network of contacts.
1. Ask for Referrals
A good place to start when building a powerful network, wrote Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers, is “to simply ask your current friends, family and associates for the contact information of others whom they think would be beneficial for you to know.”
Hansen added that the “friend-of-a-friend connection is quite strong and usually very successful. ‘Who else should I be talking to?’ is a good question to use when asking for referrals.”
Make sure that you are reliable, make a good impression, make your friend look good, and don’t let your friend down once you gain this introduction, and you will have all kinds of people willing to refer you.
2. Tap Into Your Local Community
There’s no shortage of local networking opportunities. Whether the opportunity is found through your local Chamber of Commerce or through an event on Meetup, tapping into local influencers and business leaders is a solid way of building a network.
Besides attending local networking events, Shopify.com’s guide on Local Business Networks suggests that you also find other businesses that complement yours. For example, “if you own an online jewelry store, you should partner up with local businesses that are in the wedding industry,” suggests the guide.
When you refer customers to your “power partners,” you’ll likely increase the chances of them returning the favor.
3. Have a Game Plan
You wouldn’t pitch your business to potential investors or customers without doing research and developing a plan of action first, right? The same can be said of networking.
In a post for Due.com, freelance financial journalist Miranda Marquit wrote, “you should know your purpose” by asking questions like: “What do you hope to accomplish? Are you trying to find others to create a mastermind group? Do you want to identify potential clients? Do you hope to find a partner for your next venture?”
And in his article “19 Ways to ‘Kill It’ at Your Next Networking Event,” entrepreneur John Rampton wrote that you should research key attendees prior to attending an event. “Scope out these individuals’ LinkedIn profiles to learn the basics about them, and look for common connections,” he wrote.
4. Be Unforgettable
How many people do you come into contact with each day? Out of those people, how many would you say actually made a lasting impression on you? The ones that had the lasting impression on you probably did something to stand out from the pack. How can you do this?
One way to be memorable is to have unique business cards, a catchy tagline or a piece of signature attire, like a blazing orange tie.
In a 2012 article for Business Insider, Frank Gullo wrote you should also try to:
- Congratulate a connection if you hear they recently had some good fortune, such as receiving a promotion.
- Provide your connections with professional leads.
- Snail mail them something cool, like a book that helped you become a better leader.
- Ask their opinion.
- Schedule a meet in-person for something as small as a cup of coffee.
- Send them a link to an article that they might find interesting or enjoyable.
- Just check-in to say ‘hi.’
Don’t pester the connection by bothering them every day — they’re busy people, too — but try to touch base with them frequently so that you stay fresh in their minds.
5. Treat Social Media With Respect
Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent ways to start connecting and building a strong network. But, only if you treat these platforms with the same level of respect that you would at a networking event.
Robert Caruso, a social media professional, reportedly told the Cision Blog:
“I approach social networking similarly to the real world. Get to know other people first, provide value to them, and they naturally will want to know about you, (and) what you do…. It’s human nature and how we are designed. Working within that design will always see results.”
6. Pay It Forward
Adrian Granzella Larssen wrote for The Daily Muse, “A great way to make a lasting connection is to be as helpful if you can be.”
Larssen added that when she offers “a piece of advice, some expertise, or makes an introduction to a contact, people are thrilled — more than you’d think.” Not only are people thankful, they’re “also more likely to stay in touch when they know you are a great resource for them.”
7. Attend Events Just for the Heck of It
Just because you’re attending an industry event, that doesn’t mean that you just have to go there to network. In a post on Mattermark.com, Sam DeBrule wrote:
“If you attend startup events just to collect business cards, your network will decay quickly. By the time you get home from an event, you will have either lost all the cards you collected, or decided that you don’t want to follow up with anyone.”
Instead of attending events just to network, go there to have fun or to learn something new. Why? Because you won’t be uncomfortable, and “you will be yourself, and meet people with similar interests.” When this magic happens, you’ll have a greater chance of making real connections — and those connections are more likely to last.
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