Networking is a numbers’ game. The more people that you bring into your network, the more opportunities you also bring to you and your business. To build a business you need know-how, the right materials and people to buy your product or use your service. One of the easiest ways to fast-track business growth is to build a large network of people willing help you either through information and ideas or by sending people to you.
When networking for a business you want to surround yourself with people who can give you advice, encourage you, or connect you to resources. “Reinventing the wheel” is perhaps one of the biggest time-wasters in the business world. As you are building your business, find out how other people in your network have built their businesses. People are not shy about giving advice. Don’t be afraid to ask about such thing when speaking with successful business people. Find out who they do business with and who has helped them. Nobody does it alone. Make sure that when they do help you that you express appreciation and that you try to find some way to return the favour. Networking is about giving and taking, so be careful not to just take.
Decide what your networking goal is. Make it a part of your business plan or marketing plan. Make it deliberate. How will you meet people? How much time can you take away from your work place to meet others? What would you like from them? What can you give back? Too many times, businesses a haphazard approach to networking. That may work in a small community or a close knit industry. But in most businesses and larger communities, there should to be a more deliberate plan. How will you manage your contacts? Someone serious about networking needs to be careful not to just have a pile of names and numbers that get lost in their collections. How will you keep your contacts organised and meaningful? If you’re networking to build your business, be careful not to leave too much to chance. Make a plan.
Be Seen and Heard
Be active in your community and professional organisations. It’s not enough simply to sign up and then show up. Be a presence. Volunteer for things. Give speeches and classes. Buy tables at trade shows. And be sure to collect names and numbers along the way. There is no better way to start a conversation than having people comment on something you’ve done or represent. Being seen and heard will help you find the people who can help you or connect you to those who can.
Always Represent Your Business
Informal opportunities present themselves all the time. Always have business cards available and be ready to exchange information or the spot. You have covered planned opportunities to network but don’t forget unplanned ones. Take the attitude that you would like to get to know everybody and assume that everybody wants to meet you. A waiting room or a queue is just an opportunity for which you didn’t plan. Take advantage of it and let people know who you are and what you do. More importantly, find out who they are and what they do. Not all of these will result in solid friendship or even any continuing relationship of any kind. However, some will and that is the goal.