How to Grow Your Network
How to Grow Your Network
Networking is something that everybody has to do. It is also something most new business owners and entrepreneurs avoid doing because, let’s face it–networking really is the actual worst. It’s awkward and uncomfortable for even the most gregarious among us.
Here’s a little trick: instead of thinking about building and growing your network as “networking” (ugh), think of it as “relationship building.” Think of it as reaching out and getting to know your new community and establishing reliable relationships within it. It’s just like moving to a new town or starting a new job: you’re figuring out who does what, how, and how you can help each other make the work day better.
Here are a few tips to help you do that. Don’t worry: none of them include “go to a mixer.”
Keep In Touch
One of the best ways to establish yourself as a power broker within your new field is to show off your expertise at conferences and industry events. Giving a talk and/or participating in a panel shows dozens (maybe even hundreds) of people that you know your stuff and that they should listen to you. Do not let these events be limited to your outbound messaging.
Most professional events utilize some sort of app to help attendees connect with each other, track schedules, etc. According to the event app makers at DoubleDutch, these apps are also a fantastic way for speakers to keep in touch with their audiences. After all, even if the organizers of the event stop updating that event’s app, the data contained within it will live on your device for as long as you have that app installed. Use that to your advantage! Respond to feedback. Email the people you chatted with through the app’s functionality. Send feedback to other speakers. You get the idea.
Meetup, Facebook, and other sites like them are fantastic vehicles through which to meet other local entrepreneurs and to “talk shop.” If you find a group on there that you like enjoy seeing regularly, great! If not, that’s okay. Instead, opt for a digital group online. Introduce yourself to people on social media. Join web-based groups and classes that encourage peer interactions. Most of us feel more comfortable taking chances online than we do face to face. Virtual groups are great places to get to know each other in a non-stressful way.
The key to finding a good group is to widen your search parameters. Instead of limiting yourself to your exact niche, look for other local startups. Or join groups of entrepreneurs who want to talk idea, strategies, marketing tips, etc. Heck, join groups that consist of people who are simply fans of your niche itself. You’ll be amazing at the variety out there. And, of course, once you join, participate! Nobody likes a lurker!
Good Old Fashioned Bribery
There are bound to be people within your niche that you admire. Offer to treat those people to lunch or coffee in exchange for your being able to pick their brains a little bit. You will be amazed at the allure free food has even to the most high ranking CEOs. This is a particularly good technique to use at industry events where you’re more likely to have a few minutes of face to face time with these people and where invitations to lunch/coffee/etc from strangers aren’t as strange as they might be when they crop up out of the blue.
Just Say Hello
Finally, let’s not forget the easiest and best way to meet people within your field. Simply say hello to them! Say hello via social media (that takes two seconds and is as low pressure as you can get). Send an email voicing appreciation for their work. You know the drill.
Do not, however, limit your hellos to only those you see as “movers and shakers” within your industry. Say hello to everybody, no matter where they sit on the food chain. A simple greeting and quick introduction goes a lot further than you might think!
The gist is this: focus on the goal of networking–to meet people and befriend them–rather than the awkwardness of it. When you focus on the end goal, you’ll have more success and attend far fewer “mixers.”