The surest way to grow your business is by expanding your network and improving your business relationships.
Expanding your network begins by simply meeting more people. In the broadest sense meeting anyone is better than not meeting any new people. Of course depending on your business you want to begin to refine your networking outreach so that you are maximizing your time investment by reaching higher value targets. Higher value targets are obviously those individuals with whom you have the potential to have a direct business relationship. But in the beginning go for quantity until you begin to understand how to find the quality contacts you require.
If your business is broad such as providing self-improvement or personal services like a salon, spa, fitness center or food and entertainment services virtually everyone you meet is a potential client or in a position to recommend you to someone. Be sure all of your contacts understand what you have to offer and be sure they know how to contact you. Your business card is the best device to be sure that everyone you meet has your contact information. Likewise be sure to collect their contact information so that you can follow-up with them as well. Getting new business requires that you be proactive and reach out to your network on a regular periodic basis. People’s needs change. They may not require your product or service today but when the opportunity arises you want to be sure you are the person they perceive to be their solution provider.
Put yourself in a position to meet as many new people as you can. There are plenty of ideas on this blog to help you find new ways to meet people. When you are beginning your networking campaign a broad approach is fine. As you network pay attention to what activities are yielding the best results and repeat or seek more of those activities. If your market is narrow a general business networking meeting may not yield the best return on time invested. You might be better off investing your time at industry specific or business to business events. However action is always better than inaction because though you can try to make a good guess often it is very difficult to see where your next opportunity lies.
Networking is not just about building one-to-one relationships. Networking also implies reaching into other people’s network. Imagine a spider web. There are many pathways available to reach any point on the web. In the same way a person you meet might be the person who is the conduit to where you are trying to get. Simply stated a personal introduction to the decision maker you are trying to reach by someone in your network is the fastest and most effective way to make a valuable contact. Take time to understand the people you know by trying to understand who they know.
It’s impractical to ask everyone you meet for a list of people they know (though services like LinkedIn can be very helpful). But by being sure new contacts understand what you have to offer then communicating to them that you are happy to have them pass the word or introduce you to someone they think might benefit from your product or service, you expand your reach significantly and immediately. Remember this is a two way street so be sure to do the same for them. In fact lead by example, when you see a good fit offer to help make a connection.
Next week I’ll blog a little about the next step which is relationship building. For now just keep in mind you cannot build relationships until you have a network of people that you know. Knowing people is valuable. It is your social capital. Earn as much as you can then invest it wisely.