Building your business through networking can be a tricky thing. Attending events can be time consuming, following up can fall through the cracks and no one wants to get sold to when meeting others for the first time.
However, when done properly, your network could be one of your best referral sources. Nothing beats a third party referral and word-of-mouth advertising.
But simply attending events and handing out your business card to people is not the way to build a network.
Below, you will find my top 5 recommendations for business networking and creating mutually beneficial relationships:
#1: There is a big difference between promoting and networking.
Going to an event to hand out business cards and talk about your business is called promoting.
Going to an event to meet interesting individuals that you can form an alliance with, is called networking.
The easiest way to know that you found someone you can work with is to ask yourself if you like this person.
You are only going to do business with someone you know, like and trust…so if you are not clicking with someone…it’s OK. Just move on.
There are plenty of people out there that you’ll be able to click with and build a successful relationship.
#2: No one cares about your business until they care about YOU.
No one is going to do business with your business card and no one is going to pick you over your competitor until you give them a reason to.
A great way to get people on your side is to show them that you are valuable.
Give them introductions…help them with a project…offer them something that will create value.
When people see that you are willing to go the extra mile for their business and friendship, they will respond and reciprocate the favors.
Once you, as the business owner, can grasp this concept your network will flourish!
#3: All events are not made equal.
The best way to know which event is going to be the best for you is to go out and try them out.
Unfortunately, there is no magic 8-ball that will tell you if you’re going to meet someone at event X or event Y.
Morning events typically have a different format than evening events and will generally attract a different type of attendees.
Try events with various formats during different times of the day and see which one matches your personality the best.
That’s where you are going to make the most connections.
Another great tip is to do some research on the leader of the group/event. If you resonate with this person(s), you will resonate with the attendees. If you don't resonate with the leader, chances are that you won't resonate with the group.
#4: Arrive early and stay late.
Once you find the events that you’d like to try out, make sure to arrive early so that you can meet the organizers.
This will also allow you to meet other attendees as they come in.
It’s much easier to strike up conversations when you’re not the one having to approach people to break the ice.
Staying late is also great because by the end of the event, people let their guards down and they are ready to have real conversations as opposed to “sell sell sell.”
#5 Keep it real.
Unless you are being authentic and getting to know people on a personal level, your network will stay at a superficial level.
When you can find commonality with someone – i.e. you both went to the same school, used to live in the same city, have another friend in common – you are much more likely to truly connect with that person.
Once you have a personal connection, you can meet for coffee or lunch and continue to building a mutually beneficial relationship.
And this goes without saying, but FOLLOW UP is key.
If you do all the work and fail to follow up or follow through…nothing will ever happened and everything will be a complete waste of time.
Hopefully, these key concepts will be beneficial on your networking journey and allow you to build a vast network that will allow your business to thrive!