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Let’s face it, networking can be a daunting aspect of the marketing journey. It’s like speed dating for business, but instead of finding a soul mate, you’re looking for clients, partners, referrals, and mentors. You know you should, but it’s hard to get the ball rolling.
But fear not, because there are proven techniques that will help you navigate the world of business networks:
1. Be yourself
Well… unless you’re a serial criminal, you might not be yourself, but for the rest of us, authenticity is key. Conveying with humility and authenticity is vital to establishing connections with others. People can smell a fake from a mile away, so don’t try to impersonate someone (as long as you’re not Batman).
2. Build genuine relationships
The networking process is not a numbers game; It’s not about how many business cards you collect, it’s about the actual connections that are made. So take the time to ask good questions and find common ground. (And if you find out that you both like cats, all the better!) By taking the time to get to know people, you’re more likely to make lasting connections.
Related: 5 Tips for Networking at Conferences as an Introvert
3. Follow up, but don’t be a stalker
You don’t want to be that person who sends 20 emails and calls 10 times in a day, but do make an effort to keep in touch with contacts. It’s crucial to follow up after a first meeting, for example, whether it’s through a phone call, email, or LinkedIn message. Maybe I’ll send a funny meme once in a while. (Who doesn’t love a good one of those?)
4. Be useful, but not a doormat.
You want to help people, but you also want to make sure no one takes advantage of you. This distinction is essential when serving others, a process that No it means sacrificing your well-being or allowing others to disrespect you or push you into doing something. Offer expertise and resources, by all means, but set limits, and if someone tries to sell you a timeshare, run.
5. Attend events with energy
Industry conclaves are, of course, great vehicles for meeting new people and making connections. That said, it can be tempting to just hide in a corner with a plate of free appetizers, but that won’t mark a path of progress. So, put on your best smile, grab a drink, and start socializing. And if someone spills their drink on you, don’t worry: think of it as a form of liquid confidence.
Related: 10 Franchise Trade Shows You Don’t Want To Miss
6. Take advantage of social networks, but do not be a troll
Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can be great ways to connect (while expanding your network and increasing visibility), but they can also be minefields for trolls, so use them wisely. Post useful content and engage dynamically, and don’t get into fights on Twitter (trust me, they’re not worth it).
7. Join the right networking groups
It’s easy to believe that your newly hired social club will be a networking engine, but unless you simply need more friends, it’s critical to join groups that align with your values and goals. You also want to focus on real Networking, not just hanging out at a klatch cafe. Real groups like this provide opportunities to meet other professionals and access valuable resources. Organizations such as a chamber of commerce or BNI provide a structure and focus that allows entrepreneurs to be more effective in outreach efforts.
8. Offer value, but not your organs.
Be sure to offer something meaningful, but not give away the farm, and that value could simply take the form of a useful tool or a connection to someone in your network. Oh, and if someone asks for a kidney (either real or metaphorical), it’s time to go.
9. Use references, but don’t be fooled by the names.
Referrals can be a great way to expand a network, but don’t drop names like hot cakes. Be respectful of your contacts’ privacy and only make introductions when it makes sense. And if someone says a name you don’t recognize, just smile and nod. That’s okay: you can Google them later.
10. Keep information channels two-way and with an open mind
It’s great to attend meetups focused on your industry or interests, as they provide an opportunity to interact with like-minded people and learn from experts in the field. Niche events can also give you insight into new trends and technologies that you may not have been aware of. But it is important to participate with an open mind. Don’t discount people who may not have the same level of knowledge or experience as you. Instead, approach conversations with a willingness to both learn from others and share your insights and insights.
Related: Why authenticity is a key ingredient for business success and how to make sure you have it
This process is really about building relationships and finding ways to help others, not just promoting yourself, so be genuine, actively listen and do significant connections. You never know where they might lead. Be real, be helpful, and have fun—after all, a smile is one of the best networking tools.