Networking tips for entrepreneurs
Savvy business owners know that to be successful, you need to create and nurture beneficial relationships. As such, business networking is a skill that’s essential for entrepreneurs.
Through creating strong networks, entrepreneurs meet valuable mentors, investors, clients, distributors and experts in their industry.
A strong network can be the catalyst that launches you to the next level of business success. It will help you accomplish a lot more than you can by yourself, find solutions to seemingly impossible problems and get valuable customer recommendations that will grow your business.
As a popular African proverb says, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with others.
That said, proper networking is easier said than done. Effective business networking goes deeper than merely handing out your card at events or collecting contacts to fill your phonebook. You have to be extra intentional and smart for it to work.
Here are some tips to help you network effectively as an entrepreneur.
Offer your help
The biggest mistake many entrepreneurs make is thinking that networking is all “take”. If you start networking with this attitude, you are less likely to make strong, meaningful connections. After all, nobody wants to feel used.
Instead, look for ways that you can help other people achieve their goals. Do you have connections to an investor, potential client or distributor that can help another entrepreneur who is not a competitor? You can help set up a meeting between the two. Can you help someone secure a job that they desire? Recommend them.
The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity
When your time of need comes, people who you have helped in the past are likely to feel indebted to you. Most people will reciprocate when you do something good for them. Think about it as building your network before you need it.
Stay in touch
When you meet someone at an event, do you make an effort to follow up? Plenty of business owners lose out on valuable connections by simply not following up after the initial contact. In such a case, you are just collecting contacts and not building a network.
When you identify a potentially valuable contact, take the initiative to follow up with a call. You can arrange to meet for a cup of coffee or happy hour. However, it is important to let the other person know that you are not going to waste their time. Again, think about how you can be of value to them and let them know what you would like to discuss when you meet.
Make time to routinely communicate with people in your network. Even a phone call a month is enough to keep your connection alive. People are likely to think of you and connect you to the right opportunities if you check up on them even when you do not need their help.
Become a resource on social media
Is your social media solely a place to connect with friends and relatives and watch funny cat videos? Then you are missing out on a valuable business networking tool. You can use social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to widen and strengthen your business network.
You can share knowledge in your area of expertise by creating posts, commenting and engaging with relevant industry content. This builds your reputation as an authority in your industry and helps you connect with the right people.
This way, you are going to build inbound networking - where people seek you out as a valuable connection instead of the other way round.
Join online communities
Another way to take advantage of the internet for your networking is by joining relevant online communities. You do not have to limit it to entrepreneurship communities either – you are likely to only meet other entrepreneurs there. You will find the most valuable contacts by joining communities that cover topics in your niche or area of expertise.
For example, if your business sells fishing gear, join online groups that discuss fishing. In such a community you are not only going to connect with your target market, you will also likely connect with potential investors, distributors and suppliers. You will also stay in the know on the latest industry news and information.
Attend the right events
No matter the industry, there are plenty of conferences, meetups, trade shows, panel discussions and webinars that you can attend to expand your network.
When at such event, do not just randomly hand out your business card. For the best returns, look for ways to connect more deeply even within a short time. Take an interest in what the other person does and ask unique questions.
For example, when meeting another business owner, you can ask them “What is the biggest challenge facing your business right now?” This will give you insight on what their pain points are, which gives you an opportunity to offer your help if you are able to do so.