You want to network, but you don’t know-how. Or maybe you know a lot of people, but they’re all the same type of person and you feel there must be more out there for you. How do you find them? asks Peter Decaprio
Here are some tips on expanding your circle – getting more out of business networking.
1) Go online first:
The majority of my leads come from LinkedIn. If I’m not connected with someone through LinkedIn, then I won’t approach them unless we’ve met face-to-face at some point before the conversation starts. Many professionals simply aren’t connecting on social media sites like LinkedIn because they either think it’s too hard or they don’t fully understand how it works. In order to expand your network, you must first have a sizable list of connections on LinkedIn.
2) Get on Twitter:
Twitter is another online resource that can give you access to an entirely new group of people who are not necessarily in your current circle. It’s free and easy to join, so set up your profile now if you haven’t already. I recommend creating separate lists for people you follow based on certain categories, such as “networking contacts”. This way it’s easier for you to quickly find the right individual when needed.
3) Meet people face-to-face:
Networking with the goal of building relationships is better than meeting someone at a conference or event with future business in mind says Peter Decaprio. Don’t be afraid to meet new people. Relationships can take time to develop, so be patient and really get to know people before you ever ask them for anything.
4) Organize your own event:
I’ve found that the best events are the ones where I am able to invite my connections myself. When you host an event, make sure you invite all of your connections (past, present and future). If twenty people say they will show up but only two actually do, it’s a waste of time for everyone involved.
5) Collaborate & team members:
If you have a small network or feel your circle lacks diversity in areas such as industry or profession, consider collaborating with other individuals within your network. Of course there are pros and cons to this approach, so weigh the benefits vs. costs before you start teaming up with people or adding them as a team member.
6) Get social:
Some people are more social than others, but most professionals will at least read a tweet from someone they know if it catches their attention says Peter Decaprio. If you have a Twitter account, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – retweet your connections’ tweets and mention them in your own posts once in a while. A simple hello on LinkedIn is also appreciate by most people. As long as you’re not too pushy about getting business from every connection you make.
7) Don’t give up:
It can take some time before random networking opportunities turn into solid leads for your business. You never know when you’ll connect with the right person or what kind of opportunities may come from it, so don’t give up!
8) Be helpful:
Give without expecting anything in return (at least not immediately). I like to call this “investing”, because you’re investing in someone’s time by helping them with something that matters to them. It might only take a few minutes of your time, but the investment could pay huge dividends later on down the road says Peter Decaprio. Help people out wherever and whenever you can – they’ll appreciate it.
9) Be prepared:
Always have plenty of business cards on hand at networking events so there won’t be any awkward moments where you wish you had more to give out. If people ask or want to connect with you online, make sure you have a professional and personal LinkedIn profile and tweet regularly (at least once or twice a week) to show that you’re still active in social media.
10) Follow up:
If someone you meet is interested in your business, send them more information on your company immediately after the event (i.e., different types of services offered, pricing, etc.) by following up with an email or phone call. Following up briefly will increase the likelihood that someone will keep your contact info longer term as they plan what they can do for their next project.
By following these simple steps, I’ve been able to grow my and develop meaningful relationships with both new and old contacts. Just remember to add value when you network with others, regardless of the circumstances or context.