With the economy stabilized but still not back to normal, it’s more important now than ever to rely on your business relationships. Effective networking helps you land more clients, increase your business reach and find new opportunities without spending more of your precious budget dollars. If you’re new to networking, or just want to brush up on your skills, here are seven tips:
- Keep your priorities in mind while networking.
Networking should be a mutually beneficial activity for both you and the people you’re networking with. It’s not a good idea to go into the process for purely selfish reasons. If you’re only it in for your own gain, people aren’t going to trust you.
- Set goals to keep your networking focused.
With so many opportunities for networking these days, including online networking sites, it can be easy to spend all of your time networking. It’s not enough to spend time networking, you have to do so with a purpose. Figure out what you want to get out of the experience. Do you want to introduce your company to new potential buyers? Do you want to develop relationships with other non-competing businesses that serve the same market? Defining your goals will help you focus and use your time wisely.
- Make networking a regular part of your business activities.
People either do too much networking or too little. Schedule it just like you would any other appointment and you’ll begin to see results pay off. Depending on the type of networking you do, online or local, you’ll have different requirements and time restraints. For example, if you’re primarily networking online make it a point to visit your networking sites for one hour, twice per week.
- Offer value to others first.
Don’t come to the networking table empty handed. Offer to teach others in your networking circles, to help them with their needs, or find another way to offer value. If you are helpful to others first, you’ll have a greater standing within your networking circle and you’ll be able to get more value from your contacts in the future.
- Make your mark with online networking profiles.
Sites like LinkedIn.com and Facebook.com offer you the opportunity to network with people in your field from around the country. If you are in a business to business market, you can connect with people in the market that you targeting. For best results, be sure your networking profiles include a clear picture or logo, information about the products or services you offer, and how you can help others. Keep promotion to a minimum.
- Get out there and network locally.
These days it’s easy to spend all of your time networking online – but don’t neglect opportunities to get together with others in your local area. Local networking can give you the ability to connect with new customers and contacts right where you live. Schedule at least one live event per quarter.
- Have a follow up strategy.
The biggest key in making the most out of networking is to have a solid follow up strategy. After you’ve met someone in person or connected with them via an online networking site, you should connect with them again in the future to follow up with what you discussed. For example, if you talked about working together to create a mutually beneficial resource you can follow up in a week to start sketching out details on the project.
Research Analyst, Pacific Business Centers (rebranded as Pacific Workplaces)
Courtney’s research for Pacific Business Centers focuses on tracking emerging business trends and best practices – with an emphasis on how they affect business operations, technology, and the future of work trends.