Have you considered whether you can spare any of your limited time networking? As an entrepreneur, you have a ton of tasks on your plate. You work long hours in your home office… there’s not much energy left for attending a networking event, right?
If you’ve had similar thoughts, let me fill you in on a secret—not all networking looks like an extrovert’s playground. If you aren’t convinced of the benefits of networking, or if you aren’t sure where to start, I’m sharing five basic principles to make networking work for you.
When I got started as a new business owner, I underestimated the importance of networking. I tried to navigate the bumpy waters of entrepreneurship on my own without realizing that I needed to invest in relationships. I viewed others in my industry as competition instead of comrades when I could have learned from them about the common struggles of people in my line of work.
A good network offers you the experience of others. Learn from their mistakes. See how they do business. Apply their knowledge to your ideas. With a strong network of relationships, you get the chance to make friends and get valuable support in a typically isolated industry.
You also have the opportunity to build relationships with potential investors, clients, or people who refer. A broad network gains you visibility and helps you establish brand authority.
Maybe you think you don’t need to put much effort into networking. That’s a mistake. Without networking, you miss out on rewarding opportunities to establish partnerships, prompt referrals, and bring in clients. It also enables you to build industry knowledge and further your education. You gain a whole web of knowledge that helps you keep up with the latest developments and current practices.
If the idea of networking sounds intimidating, know that you don’t have to fit a certain mold or do it the “right” way. Take the following principles and adapt them to your comfort level and personality.
5 Networking Basics Every Entrepreneur Should Know
Follow these five tips to jumpstart your networking journey:
1. Search for people with commonalities.
In the business world, you know to find a niche, so you can market toward it. The idea also applies to networking. Aim to meet people with similar interests, who live in a common location, work in a certain industry, belong to a specific demographic, have a particular educational background, or went to the same school.
You can meet people in all kinds of ways. Search for in-person and digital networking opportunities. Join groups on social media. Some organizations exist for the sole purpose of uniting people with similar interests. Take advantage of public events where you can get involved with your community and introduce yourself to other business owners and potential clients.
2. Be ready to describe your pitch.
Networking takes more than small talk. You don’t want to get into a conversation that leads to a discussion of your business only to find yourself unprepared to describe it. Make sure you can concisely explain your offers.
You may have various types of opportunities, so predetermine crucial information. Know what you’ll say as a brief description, and prepare what you’d say if you have three minutes to tell someone everything pertinent.
Know your setting, too. Read the room. Know when it’s appropriate to promote, and when the situation calls for just the basics. If a person appears interested, you can offer more information.
3. Look for the value in relationships.
Don’t just think about what you can offer to someone as a potential client or investor. Find interest in the new relationships. Ask questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in the other person and what they do. Ask for opinions about new developments or products in the industry.
Then, if the situation calls for it, offer your help or invite them to join you in an endeavor. This is why the relational gurus of old recommend talking to people about what they want, not about what you want. More often than not, you’ll find your interests aligning.
4. Carry business cards and follow up with potential leads.
You never know when a conversation about your profession might pop up. Wherever you go, be prepared to network. Give out your contact information to those who show interest in your business. If you can, get their information, too.
Make sure to follow up with potential leads. Business cards often end up in the bottom of a handbag only to get thrown away some months later. Make it a priority to circle back with potential leads or to touch base with others you’d like to build a relationship with.
5. Maintain relationships.
Speaking of building relationships—keeping them up takes effort. Keep in touch with your acquaintances through get-togethers and holiday cards. These efforts might seem trivial, but people appreciate the effort someone takes to check in with them.
When you talk to them, trade ideas and information from sources like articles. Ask questions they can answer and engage with their responses.
Some final notes: Your goal in these conversations should never be to speak negatively of others or other businesses. You will establish a good reputation when you speak respectfully and encourage, rather than spread rumors or downplay other local entrepreneurs.
And for introverts: you don’t have to change your personality to make networking a good opportunity!
Use your personality in your favor to build one-on-one relationships. Brainstorm conversation starters so you won’t be caught off guard at the moment at events. If you get overwhelmed by crowds, remember you can take a break. Walk outside a moment, take a deep breath, and return feeling refreshed and ready.
If you want to learn more tips about networking and get the support to go further, and faster, get in touch with us. We can show you how to build a recession-proof, automated business. Check out our FREE, 15-minute training and start generating at least $8k per month in weeks.