In any business, you contact list is your most important asset. It’s the people you know that will open doors for you. A large network means more opportunities. It means more possibility for advancement, and higher profits. As they say in business, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. A packed contact-book is one of the crucial things your startup needs. So that means getting out there and expanding your professional network. It sounds daunting, especially to those that aren’t natural social hunters! Don’t worry, in this post, we’ll make everything easier. Here’s how you start.
Networking is a two-way street. You’ve got to put yourself out there in order to start building contacts. So, make sure you’re visible in your industry. Make sure you’re visiting the right trade shows and business events. Don’t hide in the shadows and approach people from the dark. You’ve got to start building a reputation for yourself first. It makes for a much stronger first impression, and it gives you a talking point.
If you’re new to networking, the best place to start is often online. You can begin those fledgling relationships on Twitter and LinkedIn. These platforms are a great way to make the first connection. Identify the best contacts and start reaching out to them. Follow their social media accounts and their blogs. Offer advice or comment when it’s appropriate, and you’ve made your first contact. You can nurture that back-and-forth exchange, before meeting in real life.
Trade shows are the most important events in your industry calendar. It’s an enormous event where everyone comes together to exchange ideas, concepts, and showcase new products. There will be panels and seminars to attend, and everyone who matters in your industry will be there. It’s the perfect place to extend your network. Memorize some of these tradeshow tips, and enter the event with confidence. Set yourself a list of targets, and try to connect with each of them.
Ask for introductions
The very best way to meet new people is through an introduction. It’s much more professional than approaching people out of no-where. Your mutual friend can also help break the ice, and introduce a few common talking points. If you know your colleagues have a relationship with someone important, ask them to introduce you next time they’re in the room.
Find a personal connection
When you start networking, it’s easy to fall into the safety net of talking about your business or industry. Just remember, they’ve been talking about business all day. Try to get them to lower their guard. Find some common ground with a personal connection. Maybe a favourite sports team, films, or music. You’ll make a much stronger bond, and it’s great to use that common connection to follow up with.
Meet existing contacts for coffee
Finally, don’t forget to nurture your existing contacts. Networking isn’t a one-time thing. It’s ongoing. Keep renewing that connection with regular meetings, phone-calls, and friendly emails.
Follow this advice, and your contact list will be bursting at the seams. Good luck!