Whether you’re trying to raise funds for your startup, partner with established companies, or find mentors, knowing the right people will make your job much easier. This is why a recent survey reported that 78% of entrepreneurs consider networking a deciding factor in their startup’s success.
Networking with industry peers, investors, and successful business owners helps you:
- Gain more visibility
- Build credibility
- Find new opportunities
- Generate word of mouth
- Build a support system for your business
In this article, we’ll explore different aspects of business networking, why building relationships is a core part of entrepreneurship, and how you can grow your business by making new connections in your industry.
Read on for essential networking tips for entrepreneurs and new business owners.
Building and maintaining relationships
Initiating business relationships feels awkward, especially if you’re an introvert. But it becomes much simpler when your goals are clear, and you can add value to the other person’s business.
Here are the two fundamentals of building and growing any business relationship.
Share value and demonstrate expertise
People respect experts and want to be associated with them. To build profitable business relationships and grow your network, share your knowledge with people, whether you meet them in person or online. The more value you offer, the more they’ll respect your expertise and become open to working with you.
Follow up and stay in touch
You made a solid first impression on people you want to network with—great! But to turn these positive interactions into profitable business relationships, you must follow up and stay connected.
You can do this in multiple ways.
For example, send them an article about the discussion you had in your first meeting or share the case study you mentioned. Or simply like their LinkedIn post or respond to a tweet. The point is to remain on their radar by regularly staying in touch.
Leveraging networking events and conferences
Did you know 95% of American professionals say face-to-face networking events and conferences are the best places to build new and profitable business relationships? But showing up at meetups isn’t enough.
Here’s how you can ace your next networking event.
Target the right events
Not every event is right for your business, so you must choose them carefully because participating in an event requires preparation, time, and money.
Before choosing an event, see if it attracts the people you want to interact with. Is it exclusively a professional networking event with dedicated time for meeting people or a conference where you can chat on the sidelines? Most importantly, will the event align with your goals and help you build the right relationships?
Learn about the event, stay updated on the latest industry happenings, and have interesting examples and stats at your fingertips. If you’re looking to promote a new product or spread the word about a new service, prepare your elevator pitch and bring examples and use cases to be more persuasive. The more prepared you are, the more value you can get from an event. Use it to make a strong impression on the people you meet.
Don’t be shy
Don’t wait for people to come to you. If you’ve done your homework and know who you want to meet, introduce yourself and start a conversation. Show interest in people’s business, share your latest work, and offer help wherever possible.
Using social media for online networking
After in-person events, social media platforms and online communities are the best places to network for business and build new relationships (and we’re not talking about annoying LinkedIn cold pitches and Twitter DMs).
Here’s how to use them the right way.
Build a strong personal brand
You don’t need to be on all social networking platforms to build new connections and find potential clients. Instead, identify one or two platforms your prospects use the most. For most businesses, those would be LinkedIn and Twitter. However, depending on your business, it can be Facebook, Instagram, or any other platform.
Regardless of your platform, you must build a consistent and strong brand image on your profile that shows your authority, builds credibility, and immediately tells people what you’re good at. You can do that with a professional headshot, an engaging profile description, and a custom-designed header image highlighting your best work.
Be the ultimate knowledge source for your audience
To attract resourceful individuals on social media, you must provide consistent value with your content. Don’t waste your Twitter or LinkedIn space by posting random links or life updates. Instead, have a content plan that answers the most burning questions of your audience. Join networking groups on these platforms and connect with new people by responding to their tweets and posts with messaging that provide value and actionable insights based on your experiences.
Create a lead generation system
When you consistently share valuable content on social media, people check your profile and try to learn more about you.
This is where you need to use a well-designed lead generation system to build your list and grow your influence. For instance, you can create a landing page using Act!, an all-in-one CRM and marketing automation platform and share its link in your profile for people to learn more about you.
Offer a free lead magnet on your landing page and convert visitors into subscribers. From there, use Act! to send automated email sequences to strengthen the relationship with your subscribers and turn them into fans, clients, and partners.
Collaborating and building strategic partnerships
Active networking leads to partnership and small business growth opportunities. Not every contact becomes your partner, but when you spread your net far enough, people often come through referrals and word of mouth.
Here are a few tips to improve your chances.
Identify and shortlist potential partners
Find complementing businesses that fulfill a different need of your target audience. If you believe its values align with yours and your brand will be able to grow through partnership, reach out with a proposal.
Partnerships are about creating mutually beneficial relationships So, instead of focusing on yourself, show your potential partners how they’d benefit from joining hands with you and how you’ll make this a win-win relationship. Highlight the value you can add to their products or services and how it improves their customers’ experience.
Create a transparent management system
Successful partnerships are built upon transparent systems and seamless communication. This is why managing your communication on a centralized platform is critical to avoid operational issues. Using project management and communication tools like Trello and Slack combined with the CRM and lead management features of Act!, you can streamline your processes and confidently show prospects how to manage business partnerships.
Finding mentors to grow your startup
Did you know that 84% of Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs for their employees, partners, and promising entrepreneurs? Having the right mentors can seriously accelerate your startup journey and help you overcome complex challenges on your way to success.
Networking with successful business people can help you connect with mentors who can guide you and become a part of your journey.
Networking is a critical part of any entrepreneur’s job
You’ll rarely find a successful startup founder with zero connections in their industry. Entrepreneurs must use every networking opportunity to connect with successful business leaders, investors, and others from different sectors. Be a walking advertisement of your startup and ensure everyone you meet gains value from talking to you. The more value you share, the more long-term relationships you’ll build by networking for your business.
Curious how Act! can help you manage your network more effectively? Try a 14-day free trial today.