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The Alternative Board Blog

Seven Ingenious Ways to Leverage Your Network

Jun. 13, 2024 | Posted by The Alternative Board

Building and maintaining a professional network is a fundamental component of successful business ownership. The stronger those connections, the more opportunities they provide in key business drivers like development, innovation, and strategic partnerships. But some of the mainstays of business networking might not be as effective as they once were. Attending generic networking events, building a massive network on LinkedIn just to boast a 5000+ status, and even passing out business cards like they were candy arguably just don’t pack the punch they once did. The common thread here is that each of these efforts focus more on acquiring an extensive list of contacts rather than enriching those relationships for mutual benefit.

In short, your networking efforts should focus more on quality and be less dependent on quantity. If you are a business owner who feels empowered by those high connection totals, but who lacks actual dynamic relationships with anyone on that list, it is time to learn how to better leverage your network.

Why LinkedIn Isn’t Enough

LinkedIn is an amazing business networking platform that offers business owners and others an abundance of opportunity to identify and connect with future strategic partners or customers. But creating a profile and accepting connection requests does not necessarily translate to effective networking, now does it? In fact, studies suggest that up to 70% of the folks on LinkedIn users are passive users – and that might even be a generous estimate. So while LinkedIn is incredibly powerful and poised to be a business networking mainstay for years to come, if your engagement is only cursory, then why bother, really.

Click here to read “Easy Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Engagement” – a hands on and informative white paper from The Alternative Board.

The Key to Networking Is Engagement

It might feel empowering to boast an impressive number of connections, but the real value of your network is dependent on how you engage with those people. Building relationships is the ultimate goal of networking because engagement begets opportunity. But let’s be clear. Sending your connections sales pitch emails or LinkedIn Messages is considered by many business owners as engaging with their network, while in reality those communications are often just marketing campaigns wrapped in sheep’s clothing. Of course, marketing is terrific; just don’t confuse it with connection.

How to Effectively Leverage Your Network

So you have a terrific list of connections on LinkedIn. You have a drawer full of business cards from the last ten conventions and trade shows you attended. You know a lot of business owners who could potentially have a positive impact on your company. The big question is, how do you engage them in a meaningful and impactful way?

The following are seven wonderful ways to engage your current network, foster connection, and create quid pro quo opportunities:

  1. CoHost a Webinar: Partner up with a business owner in your network to deliver a mutually beneficial webinar. Events like these offer both parties opportunities to share their expertise, meet new leads, and bolster each other's value in the marketplace. For instance, a technology expert and an insurance broker might double up on a webinar that discusses the inclusion of both testing and insurance in a business's cybersecurity strategy.

  2. Produce an Industry Podcast: Podcasting is a surprisingly simple initiative, particularly thanks to Zoom and other video chat platforms. Invite members of your network on as special guests to discuss their businesses or other topics of interest. It positions you both as experts and thought leaders.

  3. Develop Cross-Promotions and Collaborations: Identify synergistic partners within your network, then create cross campaigns or bundle promotions. Collabs like these can serve dual purposes, as cross-promotions can be very effective marketing strategies, as well as opportunities to engage with and support your network.

  4. Launch a Referral Rewards Program: Who doesn't love referrals? Incentivize your network to promote your business to their own connections. Make your rewards lucrative or attractive enough to really spur your network to take action.  

  5. Offer Skill-Swapping Workshops: Identify connections who may find value in joint employee tutorials or workshops. Perhaps a marketing agency and accounting firm buddy up for a workshop that focuses on the unique marketing challenges faced by accounting firms, then another on building a financial strategy for small businesses.
  1. Gather for Community Service: Particularly if your business has a cause you are passionate about, invite your network connections to join you and your team in your volunteerism. Working together to elevate your community or charities enhances connection and offers depth beyond deals in these relationships.
  1. Consider Social Media Takeovers: Invite network members to share a day in the life of their business through social media takeovers, guest blog posts, or even videos. This is such an engaging way to support your connections and have a little fun along the way, 

Remember, connection is the key to successfully leveraging your network. Connection is also a foundational element of a TAB peer advisory board. While substantially different from a networking group, a TAB Board is a team of  business owners and CEOs who elevate and support each other in their journeys to success.

To learn more about the value of a TAB Board read “19 Reasons Why You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board.”

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board

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