Networking is a great way to gain expertise in your industry and create connections that can turn into lucrative opportunities. It’s good to surround yourself with professionals in the same niche that you are in or with the same amount of passion that you have.
This can help you get inspired, learn, grow and establish a foothold in the industry. Having a strong professional network can also be beneficial especially if you are seeking freelance jobs or want to grow your business.
Starting or growing a network can be a challenge. It can be difficult to know where to find connections or who to approach first and how. The people you connect with can contribute to making or sometimes, even breaking, your career or business.
It is something you should consciously and carefully do. So it is important to understand what you seek and what type of connections are right for you.
Here are several ways you can network and expand your business connections
1. Set a Goal
Before starting any connection or professional relationship with any person or business, establish what it is you want to get out of connections. There are different types of networking, from operational to personal and strategic networking— each yielding different benefits.
Do you want brand partnerships, mentorship, a community? These types of goals require different types of connections. They may also need varying approaches.
Depending on what phase your business is at, try to set a direction. For example, if you need access to funding for a project or product, you would aim to have warm introductions to angel investors and venture capitalists.
For this, you can go to business exhibits and expositions, showcase events as well as conferences and meetups. If you are looking for partnerships or clients, selecting your specific target partners and deliberately communicating with them can be your first move.
2. Get Social
In making any connection, you have to have a presence. Be there, wherever it is, and let people know you are there. Go to events for both networking and non-networking. Be inquisitive and curious and communicate with others.
Ask people. This can give a high chance of people asking you back about what you do, so you’ll have a chance to shed light on your skills and/or business.
More so, effective business networking does not always have to be strictly strategic and calculated. You can also get social outside of work hours to make connections feel more casual and organic. Connections can happen anywhere so always be open to making new friends.
3. Use Social Media
Social media is an easy way to connect with people and tap into a wide community. In just a few clicks, you can discover and join what’s trending and find people to follow and communicate with. It is also effective in establishing a presence for your career and/your business.
There are different social media platforms and one can be more effective than the other, depending on your networking goals. For example, if you want to find people you admire and send them compliments on social media in a professional way, LinkedIn may be the platform you need. Having connections with influencers and creatives can also help your business or personal brand.
For this, multimedia platforms like Instagram and TikTok can work. If you aim for quick interactions with the general public or specific groups of audience, Twitter and Facebook may be effective.
You can use these platforms to share things about you and your business to draw attention and messages your way as well.
4. Have Some Icebreakers Ready
Icebreakers warm-up conversations so, always have some ready for starting connections and setting up meetings. There are simple business-ready icebreakers that you can generally say to anyone at networking events to initiate conversations in a non-intimidating way.
A simple “Hi! I’m …” can suffice. But if you want to make an impact, it’s also good to ask witty questions, talk about the food and the atmosphere of the event or ask them about their interests.
You can also start conversations using the news and current events related to the industry you are in.
Make the initial interactions casual and not too forced. You can also ask them to meet for coffee or invite them to visit your store or workplace for a tour.
5. Look Inside and Outside Your Industry
Don’t be afraid to venture outside of your industry. There are people out there who may not be in a related field but can share practical knowledge about working, business, and even life in general. Be open to gaining useful insights that may bring a new perspective to your business.
Also, don’t be afraid to approach competitors. There is a way to have healthy competition while also being supportive and staying connected. Being a professional in any industry means you treat a business as a business and people like people.
The vast business industry is filled with people with great ideas and passions, and you don’t always have to compete with them. It can be surprising what successful and talented people are willing to share with fellow entrepreneurs and professionals they meet.
Make connections and be open and welcoming to people reaching out to you as well. Establish a strong professional network of your own to significantly enrich your industry knowledge and refine your principles and values, ultimately growing your career or business.
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