Top 8 Networking Strategies
Networking can be anxiety-inducing for even the most experienced professional. It is crucial that you get yourself out there in order to achieve success in the business world. Good communication and people skills are a must in any profession. You can ultimately achieve your marketing goals through the passing of referrals between connections.
Even the most qualified of professionals are passed up for work simply because they don’t have the right connections. This is why networking is extremely important, especially for those who are in business for themselves. When you network, you are learning from the skills and experiences of others. You are opening up new opportunities and broadening the scope of your business. You should mingle and make yourself known to your target client base. By making sure they remember you, you will get them interested in what you have to offer. It can be scary to put yourself out there for the first time, but there is no reward without a certain amount of risk. Remember that you are establishing a series of professional relationships that will benefit your business for years to come.
Let’s take a look at some top networking strategies that will keep you at the forefront of today’s competitive economy.
1. Focus on Relationships: Our first instinct as professionals is to take the necessary steps to make our business as profitable as possible. To put it bluntly, we are focused on making as much money as possible. This way of thinking has the potential to shoot you in the foot. If you approach a potential client with dollar signs in your eyes, they aren’t going to give you their business. Your first priority has to be to establishing a meaningful professional relationship in the long-term. Make it clear that working with them is not just about the money. Prove you can be trusted and that the relationship means something to you. If you line up your priorities in the right order, the bottom line will fall into place.
2. Follow Up: Don’t leave your connections hanging. A key to effective networking is to always follow through. If you say you are going to contact a potential client by email next week, then follow through with that promise. They will notice your enthusiasm and view you as reliable. Avoid making up excuses for why you didn’t call when you said you would. Experienced clients will see right through anything you tell them. It is important to do your part to ensure that you maintain these relationships. Effective communication is your greatest asset. Be prompt. Be confident. Prove yourself to be reliable and available when your clients need you.
3. Make Daily Effort: Just like anything else, networking requires work. Writers are encouraged to write every day, even if it for just a few minutes at a time. The same concept applies to networking. Put it effort every single day towards building and maintaining those professional relationships whether it is emailing a client to see if there is a favor you can do for them or connecting them with someone you think they should meet who would help improve their business. This shows that you genuinely care about the relationship and aren’t just in it for the bottom dollar.
4. Connect Your Connections: Bringing your connections together with one another is good for everyone involved. By doing this, you establish a secure bond amongst yourselves with the added advantage of learning from one another. You can throw the occasional business party in which you introduce people you think should know one another in order to improve their own business. It may not seem that this provides immediate benefits to you, but in the long run, you will be credited with helping to advance your careers, and in return, they may be more compelled to do the same for you and provide even more connections that you would not otherwise have.
5. Utilize Social Media: Social media is an extremely effective networking tool. It gives small and large businesses unfettered access to numerous connections around the world. With social media, you’re not limited to networking opportunities within driving distance. Social media and applications like Skype, Tango, and FaceTime have revolutionized the way we communicate. This is a great strategy for those who struggle a bit with face-to-face communication. You can make business connections without even leaving the comfort of home. Just be sure you don’t limit yourself to social networking only. It is still important to get out there and meet people in person.
6. Take Advantage of Local Opportunities: Even though it is important to branch out and leave all networking options opened, don’t forget to try out local connections. You never know if a friend or coworker might know someone who can connect you with potential business. Don’t be afraid to ask around.
7. Reconnect with Old Contacts: Don’t rule out the possibility of reconnecting with people who have helped you in the past. It is almost always a good idea to start with what you know, so reestablishing relationships with former connections can help to open up even more opportunities and avenues that you may not have otherwise considered.
8. Don’t Stop Learning: Don’t forget to research! There is a wealth of information available in libraries and on the internet. You can never know too much about running your business, and the more you educate yourself the better prepared you will be to sell yourself to others when networking opportunities arise. It is extremely important that you know what you’re talking about. Being educated about your craft will increase your confidence and reduce the anxiety you may have with approaching potential clients. Taking a class on your business can help to connect you with others who have similar interests and goals and as a result help you branch out and possibly mutually share connections.
Most of all, remember that networking takes a lot of effort. You are not going to establish meaningful professional connections over night. You have to take the time to invest in these relationships and prove yourself reliable and trustworthy. Prove that you care about relationship, not just the business they provide. In other words, don’t make it all about the money. Make the networking relationships about the connections between the people and the opportunities to learn and grow together as a group of professionals in an increasingly competitive economy. Maintaining strong professional relationships will also go a long way in providing references for future work. Effective networking will lay the ground work needed to build your small business from the ground up.