- Conceptualisation - ideas
- "Harder" benefits - Leads to customers, investors, partners, suppliers, employees and technical and market knowledge/information.
- "Softer" benefits - Credibility/legitimacy, advice and problem solving, confidence and reassurance, motivation/inspiration, relaxation/interest.
All good businesses start with a plan so why wouldn’t the area of networking get the same attention as other parts of your business planning? Very often, this area is left to chance.
Ask yourself these following questions:
- Who would I need to connect with to be wildly successful?
- What groups, individuals or companies could be most beneficial to my future business?
- What will help me grow as an entrepreneur?
- How can I connect with them?
Write down your answers and then prioritise what your networking activities will be in the course of a day, week and month. Incorporate your activities into your calendar and commit to a plan with a timeline.
Use Social Media
Not all networking has to take place in person. Connect with industry contacts, and even your customers, via social media to get feedback on your products and services, Swanciger said. This can help encourage word-of-mouth referrals and positive reviews — two great strategies for gaining new business.
Make a real connection - The goal is not to get as many business cards as you can, but to make quality connections. It is important to be genuine and honest. A connection is not bad but it is not a relationship. It is a relationship that sustains a business for the long term. To develop a personal relationship it takes face-to-face communication, nurturing, and time.
Build and keep your current network - It is so easy these days to build contacts and connections with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Use it often to update, share, congratulate and connect.
Always follow up
While you may have made a great impression on the person you just met, you may never hear from him or her again if you don't follow up. Send a short email or LinkedIn message recapping what you talked about at the event, and invite the person to continue the conversation. This follow-up should occur within two business days of exchanging contact information.
The same rules apply to online networking scenarios like webinars and Twitter chats. If you notice that some participants offered particularly helpful advice, reach out to them afterward, and praise them for their insights. A simple compliment can go a long way.
The final key to success builds on old-fashioned notions. You will only be as successful as you help others to be successful. Help others to achieve. Introduce them to potential clients, recommend them, offer help and suggestions, and send business their way. It is most important to do this when you are not looking for something from them. Be sincere and care about their well-being. It is a hallmark of leadership that will set you apart from the rest.
The art of networking is one with many rewards. Master this important skill set and new business doors will fly open for you. You will be enriched by the relationships you make as you help others to achieve their goals while meeting your own objectives.
Attend industry events Though we live online now, face-to-face interaction is still the most powerful. Keep up to date with all the conferences, seminars and events that are happening, and show up at as many of them as you can. Trade shows can also help, but you'll have to push harder to make connections here.
Whatever event you're attending, don't wait for people to approach you. Get out there, be genuine and engage with people – get out there and (in the words of a great brand!) ‘just-do-it’…!