“Networking is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization,” asserts Adam Small, founder of the Strategic Business Network, which provides entrepreneurs with training, tools, and opportunities to cultivate professional relationships.
“We are constantly bombarded with advertisements, emails, status updates, special offers, and sales pitches, creating a cluttered message,” he says on the company’s website. “Personal relationships enable you and your organization to stand out, rise above the noise, and remain top of mind.”
In other words, networking is critical to your livelihood, because it enables you to make connections, close deals, and acquire leads on a level that often can’t be reached through other marketing efforts.
Here are five tips for establishing and growing your network.
1. Make every lunch a networking lunch. Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone is a must-read for anyone seeking networking tips, but the title alone offers sage advice: Turn your midday meals, as well as occasional dinners and breakfasts, into networking opportunities. Make a point of taking colleagues, vendors, and other business associates — particularly people you haven’t seen in a while — out to eat. Doing so can help you build and enhance your personal network.
2. Always have an elevator pitch ready. Louis Pasteur once said that “chance favors the prepared mind.” So, is your mind prepared to deliver a quick sales pitch when the opportunity presents itself? If not, then take time to remedy that as soon as possible. You don’t want to miss the perfect moment to tout your products or services simply because you weren’t ready.
3. Get to conferences early. Whether you’re attending a trade show or another event, make a point of arriving early. That way, you’ll have time to rub elbows with other participants. Exchange business cards, engage in small talk, mention that you’re on LinkedIn (you are, aren’t you?), and get to know people. It’s an effective way to expand your network and familiarize others with your name, your company, and your offering.
4. Research conference participants. Before you attend an industry event (see #3), try to learn a little something about the presenters and other key attendees. Get a list of names and visit their blogs or start following them on social media. That way, you can approach them and start a conversation by commenting on their business or interests. This helps to “break the ice” and people will find you more likable.
5. Associate with successful networkers. Do you know someone who has grown their business through networking? Try to join that person’s network. (If you want to become a successful networker, become part of a successful network.) Observe and learn from people who have made or increased their fortunes via networking — and follow their lead. Note how their approaches differ from yours, and adjust your efforts accordingly. It’s always a good idea, especially when starting out in something new, to learn from people more experienced than yourself.