Networking and building relationships with other business owners and entrepreneurs is what sets apart the successful from the unsuccessful. Never underestimate the power of knowing the right person, as in all areas of business, you never know what opportunity might come up from an unexpected connection.
For many entrepreneurs, though they recognize the advantages of networking, between starting the business, acquiring financing, and creating a growth strategy, networking is typically the last thing on their mind. Despite how much there is to do and how few hours there are in a day, it is important to make time for networking, even if it is just one email a day.
While it can take time to forge business relationships and build your network, to only takes a few simple steps to get started:
An easy way to make connections is by reaching out to influencers. Many business owners often wait for influencers to reach out to them, believing that influencers are only interested in bigger, more established companies. However, many influencers are interested in smaller, quality businesses. More than that, they are often impressed by those who reach out to them, as it shows initiative and confidence. It reveals that while your business might not be as large as others yet, you believe that you and your business has something to offer others.
Reaching out to influencers can lead to sponsorships, conferences, partnerships, and even distributor incentive programs, such as Cisco’s Value Incentive Program. All of these opportunities have the potential to take your business to new levels.
Though it can be difficult to find or break into, there are networking groups available you can join. Many like-minded businesses have small, intimate groups they use for support, questions, advice, and collaboration. Many of these groups can be found through LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.
In many cases, these groups are private, thus the public cannot gain access to them. By reaching out to individuals in your same niche, many times you can get invited into these groups. However, when reaching out to individuals, be genuine. Ask for advice, offer a compliment, or ask a question about something rather than bombarding them with numbers and statistics. If other entrepreneurs or business owners think you are only after them for a favor, they will most likely not be interested in offering you any help.
As mentioned above, the way in which you approach others is key to building a network. Many people make the mistake of pitching an idea to a business executive or dropping a business card without ever starting a genuine conversation. Not only is that a lousy business strategy, it is a great way to get you and your company blacklisted. It makes you look arrogant and like you are looking for the quick way up the corporate ladder.
Though the purpose of networking is to make connections in order to further your business, the only way to make the right relationships is by being authentic. When introducing yourself, offer a handshake, a quick hello, and work your way into the conversation without overtaking it. Offer advice or a strategy without looking for a favor in return. Be memorable for the right reasons.
Consider offering a free seminar or conference. Not only is it a great way to network with like-minded business individuals, it also helps leave an impression on those who attend. It opens up a world of opportunity, as many will be interested in future collaborations.
Additionally, set up a blog or website where you can create and promote free content. It not only validates you as an expert in the field, it also opens up the door for influencers and other business owners to reach out to you.
Offering free information is incredibly valuable to both clients and other individuals. You begin to build an audience for yourself and are creating opportunities for yourself. All of the information you have gleaned through your experience and research can help others in the industry, making you an industry expert in the eyes of anyone who finds your content.
Building relationships and networking with others in business can be a long journey, but taking the time to do it right will be well worth it in the end, as both you and your business will see the benefits of your labor.
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