Published 03 October 2017 Category: COMPASS TIPS, ENTREPRENEUR, STARTUPS

Leverage networking for business growth [HOW TO]

Building a strong network is important for business development because, at the end of the day, people do business with people. In order to build meaningful connections, think past the tired process of exchanging business card and connecting on LinkedIn. Establishing trust early on is inevitable, especially if you are seeking to turn these connections into business opportunities.

1. Finding the right business contacts

It’s important to have a wide range of connections, not just those in your industry as these people aren’t necessarily going to be your clients. Networking can happen anywhere such as through online platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn or even at a fitness class or your child’s swimming lesson. To find new business opportunities through networking, understand your target market and find out where you can meet them whether through formal or informal networking occasions. In addition, the best advocates for your business are your current clients, so ask your current clients to refer you to people they know or create a referral program with incentives.

2. Offer help first

Once you make a new connection, you can’t immediately pitch your business. When you’re in the early stages of your relationship, it’s important to build trust before asking for something. Consider the law of reciprocity, when someone does something for you, you have a sense of obligation to return the favour. See what you can offer to this connection, perhaps professional advice or an introduction to a contact of yours. This way, you establish your value early on, paving the way to a mutually beneficial relationship in the future.

3. Cultivate a reputation as an industry expert

Make yourself a valuable connection to have – by being an expert in your industry. This means producing content that is industry relevant, forward thinking, and unique. Engage with the online community through conversations on Twitter about the latest trends. You can document your experiences and show what you have learned and any challenges you have faced. By bringing value to the community you will generate visibility for yourself and your business.    

4. Maintain regular communication

Once you meet a new contact, it’s important to promptly follow up with them after your initial meeting. Connect with them on LinkedIn with a personalized message no later than 48 hours after you meet them. If they can bring great potential to your business, find ways to keep in touch with them. This can be through quick check-ins by asking about their professional developments and giving an update on yourself. Being top of mind is important as you never know when an opportunity can arise. Another way to reconnect with contacts is to send a link to a piece of content or information that is valuable them. Tell them why the content made you think of them and how useful you thought it is.

5. Ask

As mentioned in point #2, don’t make your pitch without building a relationship, but at the same time don’t assume that after building the relationship the person will know your business intentions.    You still need to make the ask. Even if they don’t have a need for your business, as long as you have provided value and built a relationship, you can ask them for a referral, introduction or even advice.
It’s important to build meaningful relationships with your network to grow your business. Make it a priority to include networking into your business development plan.