Networking can make some people feel uncomfortable while others think it is insincere and superficial, but meeting new contacts and building relationships is essential to growing any business - whether you have just launched or you have been around for decades. When done right, networking can help you build a bigger circle of contacts and form mutually beneficial relationships. Here are five tips to help you work the networking circuit and reap the rewards.
The first key to networking is to be helpful and friendly. The true goal of networking should be to help others. You are trying to build a relationship with someone, which means you should be thinking about them, not just trying to get the most for yourself. When you are talking to someone, always keep in mind what you can do for them.
Even if you are just starting up and you don't think you have much to offer, you can always recommend a book you think they would enjoy or tell them about an app that you find useful. Any request for assistance and favours should only come after you have learned more about the other person and provided them with value. In the long run, the value you create for others will come back to you many times over.
Networking isn't a competition to see who knows the most people, the real aim is to know the right people and make the right connections. There is no need to hand out thousands of business cards or to send hundreds of emails. Instead, focus on building relationships with people that are relevant to you and your business. In the long run, it is much more valuable to have a few people who are willing to help you than it is to have 500 people who simply know your name.
But you shouldn't dismiss anyone right away. If you are an event planner you may not think someone in the PR industry would be a good contact. But if you get a contract to plan a large convention they could help you promote the event.
Although going to a tech event may not seem relevant if you run a marketing firm, everyone has multiple interests and can benefit from knowing people in different sectors. By having relationships with a wide range of people, you are a more valuable contact to people in your immediate industry because you can connect people across sectors.
A day or two after meeting someone for the first time, send them a short email or note. This is a great opportunity to continue building a relationship. To make your follow-up stand out and to anchor it to your previous interaction, try to reference something you discussed during your conversation or include a link to an article you think they will find interesting. If you have trouble remembering specific details about people, write down a few notes on the back of their business card after you have finished talking.
Not everyone lives in a big city, like London, where there are loads of events and opportunities to meet new people, but don't let this stop you from networking. The internet and all the social media channels are invaluable tools. Connect with people who work for companies you are interested in on Linkedin and join Facebook groups that are related to your industry. Finally, remember emails are very easy to send, but also very easy to ignore. If you are having trouble getting in touch with someone, don't be afraid to pick up the phone and give them a call.