Networking events and groups are necessary and vital to grow your business. Whether you are looking for new clients, building your brand, or thinking about a career change, networking is essential to developing and nurturing your business relationships, and to increasing your sales. In today’s digital age, we can get lost in emails and social media posts, but face to face interaction remains the top value driver. Successful entrepreneurs and savvy business developers have networking plans that are multidimensional and meet a variety of goals. Here are 10 effective strategies for expanding your network:
1. Go Small and Deep: Networking, can easily become your full time job. Establish your “Big Three” sources of networking groups and become immersed in those. Within those three groups, join committees and attend as many of the networking events that you can. You will be asked to go to many groups and events as you meet more influencers. Learn to say no, and stick with the big three. Usually it is one meeting a month, and a social a month. With a small group meetings approximately once a quarter, make time for at least 6 meetings a month.
2.Elevator Pitch: Create a valuable elevator pitch and memorize it. A thoughtful and engaging statement that describes your business. Make sure it is not a selling statement. Networking isn’t about the sale. It is about the relationship.
3. Make Connections: Be vulnerable. Share your story. The relationship is based on who you are as a person, not what you know. Be approachable, honest and genuine. Anything less will come across as forced.
4. Find a Mentor: Mentors are an invaluable resource. They are your go to people, advisors, and best leverage for multiplying your contacts. Find mentors and leverage them constantly.
5. Set goals. This is very important. Before every networking meeting you attend, there need to be goals set in place. At a social event, try to make at least 3 valuable connections, and at a meeting set a goal for 5 valuable connections. The purpose of the goal is to walk into the event with an intention. It sets the tone for your mindset.
6. Follow up. Another key component. Follow up with an email after the event. Make a reference to your conversation, and ask them for coffee or lunch. Keep the connection alive.
7. Organize: You will meet influencers, personal contacts and potential clients. Separate them into lists, and create a schedule on your calendar to nurture them. Establish a list of valid business reasons (VBR’s) for contact. Make sure it is valuable to them and their business. Separate yourself from the ‘other guy’.
8. Share: After every networking event, share your new contacts with your core group of mentors and influencers.. In an email, in person, on the phone. Sharing is vital in growing your network, and your brand. There are influencers and referral sources all over the business community who may know or need to know who you just met. It works. New connections will be made all over the place and you are the catalyst. Don’t expect anything in return. Being the catalyst is enough.
9. Thank you: Personal handwritten thank you notes are not a thing of the past. Carve out an hour to write them at least twice a month. Go through your business cards, and touch every person you have met during that time. The personal attention will really make a lasting impact, and further your growth.
10. Social Media: In today’s age, this is a no brainer. Allow Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter become part of your brand. Create interesting posts, while allowing the audience to feel a personal connection to you. Leverage your core group to retweet, like, follow, and comment.
Relationships take time, effort, sincerity, and will remain an integral part in growing your business. Following these ten steps you will see your network and brand recognition grow significantly.