Love it or hate it, networking is essential for business growth and success. It’s often the bane of existence for many business owners that I work with. But if done right, you can take the hassle of it and make it an enjoyable and effective process for all parties involved. With in-person events making a comeback this Spring, be sure to take advantage of the opportunities available.
Here are my recommendations for improving your networking skills:
Make a plan
Before diving deep into networking this year, I encourage you to approach it with a well-thought-out and devised plan. Networking takes time, energy, and, in some cases, money, so this will allow you to get the most out of it. As you prepare your networking plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who do I want to meet? (vendors, suppliers, partners, competitors, customers, etc.)
- Who do I want to do business with this year?
- In what ways do I want to grow my business? (market penetration or expansion, acquisitions, business partnerships, etc.)
As you consider your networking goals, I recommend aligning them with your business goals. Additionally, prioritize which goals are most important as this will allow you to allocate your time and resources more wisely.
Connect with people and businesses outside of your industry
When it comes to networking, we may be inclined to stick to what we know and only pursue opportunities within our industry verticals. While it’s wise to know what’s happening in your industry, there’s a lot to learn from what companies in other industries are doing. You may learn about new business models, tech, marketing strategies, etc. that you can then integrate into your own business, and perhaps even lead you to be a leader in your industry. Instead of choosing arbitrary events to attend, I recommend looking into trade shows and events related to your hobbies or interests in order to get the most value out of it.
Call out on social media
While many businesses use social media to connect and maintain relationships with their customers, they often don’t take advantage of its potential for networking with other businesses. When you think of business networking, LinkedIn likely comes to mind, but any social media platform could be beneficial if used in the right way.
Oftentimes, eager to get their brand out there, business owners will send the same elevator pitch to everyone in hopes that it sticks. For a more successful approach to networking, I encourage you to tailor your messages. Take some time to learn more about who you are messaging - review their profile or page to see what they do, how they do it, and what you admire about their approach or what value exchange of information or knowledge could bring to both parties. I recommend not making it too “salesy”, and instead, show a genuine interest in learning more about the person or business you’re contacting.
Another more organic way of networking is to engage with content online. Again, instead of writing cookie-cutter posts such as “Great article!”, consider asking a relevant question that promotes dialogue between both parties, and allows there to be a natural exchange of knowledge. This strategy will also increase your exposure to other people or businesses who may be scrolling through their feed.
Is networking an area you want to improve upon this year? Consider joining TAB York Region where you’ll reap the benefits of working one-on-one with a TAB-certified coach as well as surrounding yourself with like-minded business owners as part of a peer advisory board. Contact us today to learn more!