No matter what kind of business you have, from the smallest solopreneur to the biggest organization, you will need help from other people at some point (most likely, at lots of points!). Without a solid network in place, finding the right service providers, staff and clients can be near impossible. This is a major challenge that most entrepreneurs and small businesses face. So, here are a few ways to help build up a successful business network:
(1) Be Consistent
It takes time and consistency to build up a robust network, so don’t expect to have a full pool of fans and friends after making 3 facebook posts or attending a single networking event. But, the good news is that with social media, it’s easier than ever to connect with virtually anyone that you seek out. For social media, I recommend focusing on a single site (I personally favor Twitter @caroljsroth). Set aside consistent time each day, even if it’s only 20 minutes, specifically for networking.
Use consistency to your advantage at events and in-person meetings, too. It’s not enough to take someone’s business card or have a few minute chat; take the time to follow-up with everyone that you’ve met shortly thereafter. Join groups or attend events where you will repeatedly see the same people, as relationships blossom more easily with familiarity. With consistency, your network will steadily grow.
(2) Be Helpful
Building off of the tip above, when engaging with others, online or off, find ways to be genuinely helpful to that person first, without expecting anything in return. Like their posts, retweet their important accomplishments, send them useful content, give them authentic shout-outs, provide referrals and solve their pain points.
I can’t say it enough that people want to interact with, purchase from and help out those that they know, like and trust. All too often, upon meeting someone, people will lead with their business sales pitch or an “ask” that’s inappropriate for the level of relationship that they have (which is often no relationship). Taking the time to help others is arguably the most effective thing that you can do to build up a reliable network, one that will actually help you out and advocate on your behalf when you need it.
(3) Be Memorable
When interacting both online and in person, you don’t want to get lost in the crowd. You want to be memorable and stand out (in a good way- not for being the guy that passes out drunk in the middle of a networking event or the gal that personally insults the event host).
Social media sites and networking events can sometimes become tedious, so emphasize the positive traits that are authentic to you. Use humor to your advantage. Even if you’re not naturally funny, you can quote or retweet someone else. And if you’re following tip #2 above, you’ll already be miles ahead of the rest of the crowd.
Additionally, ask others questions to get them to talk about themselves (people generally love to talk about themselves) and look for common ground. Having something in common, which can be as simple as a favorite sports team or a child of similar age, will make you much more memorable.
What other tips do you have for building up business networks? Please share them below.
Thanks to Monique Y. Wells of Understanding Time Management, Melissa G Wilson of Networlding, John DiPietro of Advanced Business Concepts/DiPIetro and David Weber of Learn About Flow for the inspiration behind some of these ideas.