Business networking is rapidly becoming an inalienable part of each business. However, many companies still leave networking up to chance. That means they are not strategizing their efforts when planning the next networking opportunity. If you take a close look at other parts of business, you will see how important planning is. Your sales department has a pipeline and set goals. Your marketing department has a very clear structure plan. So should your networking.
Strategizing your networking efforts will lead to a long-term result. “Long-term” is the key word here, as networking works on the long run and does rarely give immediate results. Building a business network does not come overnight. Gaining networking muscles takes work and commitment. Help yourself by following these 7 tips to structure your current networking business.
Business Networking Strategy Tip #1. Set Goals
Before you do anything, understanding your end goal is the key. Ask yourself the following questions. Who are you looking to meet? Partners, clients, vendors? How much time are you ready to spend on networking? Personal involvement vs. delegation. Being 100% involved in networking for business owners can be hard, so share some responsibilities.
Business Networking Strategy Tip #2. Organize Your Calendar
Pick 1 or 2 large events depending on your field and your needs. On top of that set a goal to attend at least one local networking event per month.
Don’t forget about online networking channels. (More on this here. Link to online networking article). Set a day and time in your week for following up with new requests, exchanging messages, posting articles, etc.
Once you have yourself organized networking would not feel like a burden or chaos. You will need minimum efforts to keep visible and open to new contacts.
Delegation will come handy here – you can send your team members to some local events to cover more grounds or have your personal assistant take care of the online presence. However, I would suggest to keep following up to yourself.
Business Networking Strategy Tip #3. Try New
Now, when you have streamlined your calendar you will see how much time you have freed. Use it to try new sources for networking. Join a new local club or an online forum. It doesn’t matter whether you are building a small business network or your company is pretty large already. There are new things developing every day and it is good to stay on top of them.
Business Networking Strategy Tip #4. Keep Networking Everywhere
Make it a habit, your second nature, to exchange information with people anywhere you go. It can be at an airport or a cafeteria or a store. With an app like 100AM you will be ready to exchange contacts even if you don’t have paper business cards on you.
Business Networking Strategy Tip #5. Establish Rapport
Networking doesn’t end when you leave the event venue. Following up is your key to converting a name in your phone book into a live person. Reach out to people right away and try to have another chat or meeting to dive into more pressing matters (see tip 6).
Business Networking Strategy Tip #6. Be Useful
What is the main question of networking? Correct, “How can I help you?”. This tip is tightly combined with the 5th one. Being genuinely useful will help you create rapport and keep the contact alive. It doesn’t mean that you have to give away free services. Being useful may mean you have recommended someone who can help, shared a good book on the matter, suggested a solution based on your experience, etc.
Business Networking Strategy Tip #7. Track Results
You need to have a clear understanding of what works and what not. According to the Pareto principle, 20% of efforts bring 80% of the result. After you have been following your plan for a while (say, a year), you need to have a clear understanding where are your 80% of quality contacts come from and re-evaluate the strategy.
Consistency is crucial when developing a network. Creating and properly following business networking strategies will help you stay ahead of the game and not drop the ball blaming the lack of time. If growing your business is important to you (I hope it is), then networking should be your top priority.