How to successfully grow your business network without leaving your office
Business networking is essential – whether you’re a small business, an entrepreneur, or an employee working in a large enterprise. It opens up new business and employment opportunities, lets you find mentors for advice, and allows you to promote your business. Unless you have a considerable amount of free time, however, finding time for networking can be a challenge. Fortunately, if you try these practical strategies, you can build your business network from the comfort of your own home.
1. Use business social networking sites
Look for social networking platforms that support businesses and join as many as you can reasonably maintain. Use social media platforms to promote your business, tell customers about your products, get feedback about your brand, and strengthen relationships with existing customers.
You can join social networking sites that operate in niche segments or all-industry sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. If you have a business website, provide a link on your profile so people can get more information about your business. Don’t forget to add your social media profiles to your business card and promotional materials.
LinkedIn has more than 500 million users and it’s an excellent platform for keeping connected with partners and discovering new relationships. With a public profile that includes recommendations from connections, you can immediately establish credibility and promote your brand to your new network. Create a company page if you’re an entrepreneur, customise your profile, add people you already know, and join LinkedIn groups to interact with more people.
You can also use platforms like LinkedIn to discover new partners. For example, if you’re looking for an accountant, do a search and you’ll have a long list of potential partners whom you can contact right away. These sites can be invaluable for sourcing partners in specialist fields, reaching a broad range of partners and suppliers, and igniting potential partners almost instantly.
Another platform to use is Twitter, which boasts 328 million users. Follow people in your field, along with potential partners. You can broadcast messages to your followers, hashtag your tweets to maximise discoverability, and interact with potential customers. If you’re in the services field and self-employed, you can use Twitter to build your credibility as an expert by sharing useful information and resources on the platform. Explore different ways of using Twitter. For example, if you’re holding a promotional event, look for journalists in your local area on Twitter and send them a press release to boost your chances of getting coverage.
Other platforms to use
Look for any industry-specific platforms that lets you reach niche markets and partners in your area. Join as many platforms as you like, provided you have enough time to stay active and promote your brand and business.
- Facebook – The world’s most popular social media platform by user base, Facebook lets you upload videos, share links, place targeted ads, and interact directly with customers and partners.
- YouTube – Depending on your industry, posting informative or entertaining videos can help you network with more partners and clients. It can help you grow visibility in your industry.
- Instagram – Instagram lets you share photos and videos of your products, follow potential partners and top industry players, and comment on and repost others’ posts.
2. Hit the right note
Avoid either hiding your agenda or being too aggressive. Don’t be shy about asking for help, and be upfront yet tactful when you’re initiating contact with a new contact. Hitting the right note can feel like a challenge when you’re contacting someone new, but keep practising and be honest with people, and you’ll eventually get the results you’re seeking.
Tell your new connection what you’re looking for right away, whether you’re seeking a new job, information and advice, or an introduction to a contact. People respect honesty and are usually happy to help. Since time is limited, prepare an elevator-pitch-style introduction that gets to the point. Use this whether you’re using email or social media.
Hitting the right note means not being too aggressive. Send an email and a follow-up message, but don’t contact potential connections every day. Keep your messages succinct and polite.
3. Start early and be patient
Build your online presence early and start using the internet to build your business network even if you don’t have a specific need (such as finding a job or getting a valuable contact) right now. Don’t expect results right away, and be proactive in touching base with your network on a regular basis.
4. Give something in return
Be ready to offer something in return to your contacts and give your advice and time generously, especially if they’ve assisted you. One way you can do this is to learn as much about them as possible and consider what they’d find helpful. This way you can contact them with an offer to help if you come across something or someone of value to them. You can also use a call to action with every contact, and use this to remind them you have an open-door policy to help them in return.
If you’re proactive in providing useful introductions, even online, your connection will remember you the next time they come across someone or something that could be valuable to you.
5. Coordinate with offline efforts
If you’d like to go deeper with members of your network, find ways to deepen your engagement offline. For example, once you’ve developed a rapport online, you could attend regular industry group meetings together, or meet for a coffee. You might find this necessary only for your most valuable contacts, but meeting face to face can strengthen your connection and let you develop long-term, mutually rewarding partnerships with the VIP players in your network.
Using social networking for valuable business connections
Business networking can take time and effort, but with social media platforms and other online tools, you can build your network and connect with valuable contacts without leaving your office. As long as you’re honest about your intentions and ready to give something in return, you can develop strong, lasting connections with your network.
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