Let’s fact facts. A business is only worth the time and effort its principals put into it. A strong network can help your business grow faster than anything. The people in your network can help motivate you, mentor you, partner with you or simply provide advice on how to make your business grow. You never know what a connection may bring to your business.
But networking can be difficult, and it can also waste your time and energy. For some people, networking is an easy skill, while others struggle with it. If your goal this coming year is to increase your network and your skill navigating it, we have some tips for you.
Attend networking events with a plan: Networking events can be difficult and a waste of time if you are not willing to do some work beforehand. Research the event, know who is putting the event on and take the time to speak with them and thank them. Appreciation goes a long way, and the organizer of the event will know more of the people there than anyone. This may be the most vital connection you make at the event. Similarly do some research on people who may be there, so you know their basic backgrounds. This way your conversation will be less about what they do and more about how they do it.
Know your brand: This does not mean your product or your business. Your brand is who you are as an entrepreneur and a person. When you are networking, you are not selling your business or yourself. You are presenting an idea of how you do business. But how do you do this? Mind your manners. Don’t make your conversations all about you. Listen to others, pay attention and be thoughtful. Others will see how you conduct yourself, will want to know more about how you do business and then will want to know what your business is.
Write down what you learn and follow up: You never know what a connection might bring to your business. Keep a simple document of names, businesses and topics of conversation you may have covered handy. Update it as soon as you meet someone new, so you can retain information about your new connection. Then follow up with them. Send a thank you card, a virtual business card, or add them to your Linkedin profile, so you can see what they do. Keep in contact and nurture contacts for that moment when you may need them.
As you work to develop a strong and vibrant network, your business will grow. Not only will more people learn about your business, but you will learn more from others about how to grow and develop your business.