Last editedAug 20222 min read
Success in business is where preparation meets opportunity. Developing a robust network of business connections is essential to that preparation. Here are four tips on how to build these connections.
Assess your current business network
You already have some kind of network of business connections, even if you don’t think so. For example, even if you’re fresh from school, you know peers and teachers, which can give you indirect access to their family and friends too. Likewise, your own family and friends are also business connections and may be able to introduce you to new ones.
Getting a direct introduction to a new connection is the easiest networking route of all. That’s exactly why direct referrals are so valuable. At the same time, unless your current network is very robust, there are probably gaps in it. Once you’ve identified these gaps, fill them.
Make the most of your social media profiles
There are two ways to connect with new people. One is to go and find them. The other is to have them find you. Passively waiting to be found may not win you as many contacts as proactively going to look for them. On the other hand, it takes much less effort and can still produce good results.
Create at least one social media profile that you’re happy to share with business contacts, with LinkedIn as the most obvious choice. Remember that this profile is for professional networking, so think about what you post.
Curate your social media profile so that it becomes a valuable resource for potential business contacts. Firstly, this increases the chances of somebody finding your profile through an organic search or site recommendation. Secondly, it means that when you do go out to look for contacts, you have something interesting to share with them.
Create business cards
Even if you have no intention whatsoever of going anywhere near a live business networking event, have some business cards created anyway. Keep a few on you at all times. You never know when you might meet someone who could be useful. Don’t end up wishing you had a pen and paper to give them your details – just hand over a business card.
Think of your business card as a social media profile in miniature. Its basic job is to convey your essential information e.g. email and phone number. It also gives the recipient a reason to be interested in you. It’s a good idea to give them the details of your social media profile, and maybe put a QR code on it as well as the link.
Regularly go where your target contacts are
Building authentic business contacts is like growing a garden. It’s important to put in the time and effort. Using the right tools definitely helps, and also allowing time to do its work.
Regardless of whether you’re networking online or in the real world, people need time to get to know you. Be respectful of this. Learn to read a room and to read individuals within that room. Some will be easier and quicker to get to know than others. Maybe focus on these people first, but don’t neglect the others.
Similarly, don’t forget that networking goes on outside of formal networking events. Both online and offline, you can find places where people just hang out to chat. Online, these may be forums and social media groups. Offline, they may be bars and cafes. Try heading to these places and chatting to whoever comes your way.
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