For growing companies, business networking and relationship building represent two of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to develop new professional opportunities. Unfortunately, in today's digital age, it's common for people to overlook networking in favour of other marketing strategies like PPC and social media advertising.
The truth is, however, that networking is just as important today in 2019 as it was back before the age of the internet. All you need to do is make sure that you know how to make the right connections and make the most out of the relationships that you build.
1. Know Where You Can Network
The most obvious place to put your networking skills to the test is at a local industry event, where you can interact with people in the same sector or space as you. However, the internet has created a new range of opportunities to reach out to potential partners and collaborators too.
For instance, on channels like LinkedIn, you can easily reach out to people who can have a positive impact on your business or career. There are also plenty of fantastic forums for people from specific verticals to interact in.
2. Look for Relevant People
Whether you're at an in-person event or you're looking for people to reach out to online, it's important to make sure that you're making the right connections. Online, take some time to read up about the people in your social media groups, and find out whether they could have a positive impact on your business.
When you're networking in person, simply avoid talking specifically to the people that you already know or feel comfortable with. Thank the host for allowing you to attend, then look for people that you can introduce yourself to.
3. Have the Right Information on-Hand
Networking is all about making the right lasting impressions. If you've done your research into a person online, then you'll already know the basics about who they are and what they do. Additionally, in-person, you may receive a business card. You also need to make sure that you're giving people the information that they need to know about you.
For instance, if you're looking for someone to collaborate with on a new case study, show them some of your previous work, and give them your phone number and email address so that they can get in touch. If you're handing over a business card, try personalising it with a note so that you become more memorable.
4. Be Friendly
In today's digital world, it's easy to forget to show your human side. When you're networking however, it's crucial to have an emotional impact on the other person, so that you can begin to build a lasting relationship. Use the other person's first name a few times during conversation, laugh at their jokes, and show them that you're interested in what they do.
Don't just describe why you're so special, and why the person in question should want to work with you, spend some time asking them questions and making them feel important.
5. Don't Go in Trying to Make a Sale
Another thing to remember about networking and building relationships, is that you shouldn't be immediately trying to sell something - even if that is your end goal. Instead, focus on actually building relationships with the people that you meet. Even if you don't get a sale from the people that you connect with in this way, you may convince them to like you. If people like you, they're more likely to go out of their way to help you, even if that means directing you to someone who might want to invest in your product or service.
6. Dress Appropriately
Both online and offline, the way you look can make a significant difference to your networking efforts. In person, you should be dressed professionally, so that people will take you seriously as a successful and committed businessman or woman. In the digital world, "dressing" appropriately means paying attention to your visual assets. Is your LinkedIn profile fully filled in with a smart-looking headshot as your profile picture? Is your website in good condition, or does it look severely outdated?
7. Follow Up
Finally, if you make a connection with someone in the digital or offline world, then make sure that you stay in touch. Send them a note letting them know that you enjoyed meeting them or write up an email complete with useful information that's related to what you spoke about last. Remember, networking is a long-term process, not a one-off event, you'll need to take plenty of time to develop relationships with the people that are interesting to you.