Tips for Business Networking: Online and Off

networking, business networking, effective networking, business development, developing new businessWe talk a lot about the value of online marketing and analytics for growing your business. These are crucial tools; however, it’s also important to keep in mind that business is also very personal. While outreach through the internet is certainly a must, knowing how to effectively network on a more personal level is critical. This is especially true for larger customers, business-to-business relationships and engaging with key influencers. The same is true for executives in larger organizations. As reported in Fast Company, “A recent study of 6,000 executives at 3,000 companies in the U.S. and Europe found that executives with 50% more professional contacts above the average, had a salary 3.5% or $15,000 higher than their less gregarious/friendly/sociable colleagues.”

So how can you network online, and off, in a way that’s designed to build value—and relationships?

Providing Value

When we write and speak about generating online content, an important and consistent theme of our message is providing value to your audience. Your online content should appeal to your target market because it’s useful to them. You should avoid overly salesy content. The same is true for in-person networking. Instead of asking for favors or interrogating someone at a cocktail party about business opportunities, consider what you can offer them instead. You’re much more likely to stand out in their minds after the fact and be seen by them as a valuable part of their network if your focus is  more on them, than on you!

Consistency

Just as with a company or product brand, your personal brand is based on the sum total of all of the experiences and interactions your target audience has with you. Consistency is extremely important as is alignment with the characteristics/traits you would like to be known and highly regarded for. Business Knowhow points out that “networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships and seeing how you can help others.” They key there is “genuine and authentic.” It’s hard to be consistent without being real. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, people will see through you eventually. Especially the intelligent, savvy people you should be attempting to connect with.

Get out There

Identify the types of people you want to connect with and get in front of them. Check out professional associations, and online forums, related to your business or to your market. Attend conferences. If possible, try to get speaking time at such events to help promote yourself as an expert and connect with other experts in the field.

Follow Up

Getting a business card is just one step in forming a productive business relationship. Don’t expect someone to remember you after a single encounter. Seek out those you wish to get to know for coffee, informational interviews—or online interactions. Stay in front of them by following up every now and then with information or insights that can help them in their professions.

 

Doing business is personal. People like to do business with people they know and trust; consequently, networking is critical. Networking gives others a sense of your “personal brand” and helps them to gauge to what extent your brand aligns with theirs. That alignment is important for establishing and nurturing business relationships—whether you’re doing this face-to-face, or digitally.

 

Recommended Reading

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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