It’s no secret that part of being an entrepreneur is effective networking. A thriving network of connections allows you to access opportunities that may otherwise have flown by. The problem then is networking efficiently. Going out and simply talking to people can work, but entrepreneurship is about doing things well. Here are a few things you can do that’ll maximize your networking efforts.
One of the best things you can do as an entrepreneur is to share your knowledge with the world. Not only are you helping people, you’re improving your reputation as an authority in your field. Think of anything you write as a business card – it’ll serve as introduction to you, your skillset, and perhaps even your company.
One option is to write a book. Publishing a book gives you great credentials and can increase your reach. Think of it as a business card that hands itself to others. Not only will it tell them about you, it can provoke investors or customers into reaching out to you because of your ideas or opinions. If you don’t have the time to sit down and pound out a book, you can go the other route and start banging out articles. This has the same effect as writing a book, but you can focus each article on a specialized topic, allowing you to give in-depth advice.
2. Help Others Network
The old saying “do unto others as you want them to do unto you” is still applicable, at least in the case of networking. Networking is inherently about making connections to benefit you, but sometimes the best way to do that is to help people find others. Just because you don’t need a realtor at the moment doesn’t mean you should throw away his business card – you may know someone who’ll need it after all.
Not only are you helping people out, you’re also cementing yourself in their memories, especially if the connection goes well. If you help them, they may think of you in turn when they find someone who could help you and your startup.
3. Give Back
Nothing says success more than being able to give back to the world. Philanthropy should be its own reward, but it can also help your networking efforts. There’s no need to wave a fat check around – give back enough and people will notice. You don’t have to break any records. Give what you can, when you can. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t sacrifice your startup to donate or you should donate money for the sole purpose of networking. All this just means that there are additional benefits to philanthropy, and those benefits can apply to your networking efforts.
4. Follow Up on People
Your networking efforts won’t work if you meet with people just once. Your objective when networking as an entrepreneur is to build relationships, and relationships can’t be built on a single meeting. They’re built after spending time with someone, and for business relationships, a follow up and go a long way.
Following up on someone reminds them that you exist and tells them that you’re still thinking about them. This kind of attention can be the basis for a long lasting business relationship.
5. Public Speaking
Much of networking relies on perception. Your personal reputation has a huge impact on how well your networking efforts go. If you barely have a reputation, you’ll have trouble getting people’s attention – however, if you’re a well-known authority in your field, they’ll come looking for you instead.
There are plenty of public forums you can choose from. You can volunteer as a guest speaker at a school or at a local event. You could even offer your services as a consultant at a meeting. It’s all about helping people – if you’re not helpful, you’ll get a far different reputation, one that will actually run contrary to your networking campaign.
Networking is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur, but it’s also a strange one. While you are primarily trying to build a series of beneficial connections that will help your startup, the best way to do that doesn’t involve your startup directly. It’s about making yourself an approachable and trustworthy person, while simultaneously helping people. If there is anything that embodies the saying “you get what you give”, it’s networking.