There are a lot of responsibilities that you must undertake as an entrepreneur. But one vital task is sometimes easily overlooked. Even the most wealthy and respected entrepreneurs started somewhere, however, and the majority started in the same position as you. One of the ways they managed to climb from beginner to professional is through networking.
Networking may not seem like a big deal to you. Or you may find it terrifying. Regardless, it’s part of the foundation of being a connected and successful entrepreneur. When you make the right connections, you’re able to meet individuals who can provide advice, information, and referrals, and can help you expand your sphere of influence.
If you’re not sure where to start with networking, then here are a few ideas:
1. BELIEVE IN YOUR BUSINESS
When you’re strongly committed to your business, you won’t seem as young and naïve. You’ll take on the appearance of a confident, successful businessperson. Someone that everyone wants to associate with.
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES
Service is free, which always leaves a strong impact on the recipient. Jumping into local events and organizations and offering your time can help you connect with important individuals. People don’t usually turn down free things, and it could be your foot in the right door.
3. GIVE GIFTS AS A TOKEN OF APPRECIATION
When someone makes a connection with you, it’s customary to send a thank you card, or even a gift to show your appreciation. Appropriate corporate gifts can send a message of professionalism while leaving a good impression on the recipient.
4. ASK QUESTIONS OF THE GREATS
The wise and successful usually have no problem sharing tips and ideas. When seeking guidance, ask very specific questions, so others don’t have to do extra work in the process. They’ll be much more likely to impart their knowledge when you do most of the work. Take any knowledge you receive to heart, and apply it, so it’s not a waste of your time.
5. WORK THE PUZZLE
Networking is kind of like putting together a puzzle. Each connection you make is a piece of that puzzle. Find ways to unite your connections, and integrate the information you’re learning, so it can all create a bigger picture.
6. CREATE A PROFESSIONAL BLOG
On the flip side, sometimes networking is people finding you. When you post a public, professional portfolio or blog, people can view your achievements and will be enticed to make a connection. It saves you time and helps to make more meaningful connections with people who want to help.
7. FOLLOW UP
For most people, a single meeting won’t forge a relationship. It takes multiple interactions to create that link, which makes following up essential to networking success.
8. FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Look for those who will have the greatest impact on you, and only associate with them. If you’ve made a connection that’s weighing you down and doing very little to promote your success, don’t be afraid to cut that person loose.
9. ATTEND CONFERENCES
When you don’t have a lot of time for networking on a personal level, go to conferences and other networking events. Many of the people you’ll want to meet will be in a single room, which helps you to narrow down your choices and forge some meaningful relationships.
10. USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Harnessing the power of social media is also a great tool for the time-strapped entrepreneur. LinkedIn, for example, is the ultimate platform for business networking, and you can connect with people on Twitter and Facebook as well. Put yourself out there using this far-reaching online tool, and you’ll see the benefits of your efforts.