Networking for Entrepreneurs: Working It to Your Best Advantage
Any successful business owner will likely tell you that a big part of how they got to where they are now, is due of the people who have helped along the way. Having a strong professional network provides you an extra boost to get further than you ever could on your own. Often, your network can even help you find solutions to problems – or overcome obstacles – that previously seemed impossible. Additionally, your professional network can also help you grow your business through referrals and recommendations.
However, networking is only effective if you’re smart and strategic in how you go about it. Whether you’re handing out a business card, or reaching out via social media, you should be sure to utilize your professional network wisely.
Here are some tips and advice from entrepreneurs and business leaders on networking for entrepreneurs:
- Help others first
Often, when individuals come to a networking event, they bring a problem or challenge with them. That way, they can seek out help and advice from others. On the other hand, when you first meet people and are seeking to expand your network, consider how you can help them first. Specifically, begin by asking questions and try to discover how you can provide value to them first, instead of the other way around.
Action item: Consider have to offer – what you can bring to the table – that provides value for others. Whether it’s sharing tips and/or assistance in business, success, or operations or simply making introductions of other players who can help each other, you will get back what you give.
- Become a resource on social media
Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are great places for you to produce and deliver helpful tips for others, resulting in the growth of your network. Specifically, you can comment and engage with others by offering relevant content that addresses the specific problems or pain points of others. This will build trust, rapport, and goodwill among your followers. In this process, using these platforms, you will likely also attract an inbound network too. This means contacts will begin to reach out to you proactively. Consequently, you will be able to spend less time having to actively seek additional contacts and instead, they’ll come to you.
- Do some basic press outreach
As a business owner, it is important to build relationships with your local media. They can help you get your business story “out there” on a larger scale. Reading your local newspaper and watching the news will give you a better sense of what is happening in your community and will help you decide which reporters are more likely to take interest in your business news too. Once you’ve decided on the reporters, send an email introducing yourself and let them know that you appreciate their work. That way your name will already be familiar when it’s time to share your news as well.
- Get customers involved in your process
Consider developing a program where you can engage your most loyal, enthusiastic customers to become advocates for your brand—brand ambassadors. As such, they then help spread positive word about your business throughout the community. Specifically, these members could hand out referral cards, welcome new members, attend events, and post about your brand on social media. In this manner, they become like personal “network assistants” who will help you gain more visibility in your local community.
- Participate in your local business community
By participating in local business organizations or on advisory committees, or attending events such as conferences and expos, you are getting yourself “…out there.” Generally, with this such strategy, you will get out of it what you put into it. If you don’t reach out to others, you can’t expect people to reach out to – or for – you. Use your own efforts to make it happen for them and subsequently, you!
- Stay in touch with former connections
Former relationships and contacts should be revisited when building your network. Bringing them back from the past, can often help you reach the next milestone for your business. Don’t ever write anyone off and certainly, be sure to never burn bridges you think you have crossed and left behind you. You never know when you will need to travel over that bridge again to get to where you want – and need – to go for your greatest business success.