August 09, 2017
Becoming a successful entrepreneur isn’t just about offering quality products and services, designing a shrewd business model, or knowing the market inside-and-out. In order to gain brand exposure and recognition, you have to build, nurture, and grow your brand.
One way to do this is through networking. Creating trusted interpersonal connections can help your business gain traction and credibility. Use the networking strategies below to generate new contacts and strengthen current ones for the good of your brand and your business.
This social media platform was built for professionals of all kinds, and being active on LinkedIn could provide you with opportunities to connect with other leaders and business people.
One of the features that will help you get the most out of LinkedIn are groups. While not all groups are for everyone, each one has a unique focus and builds a culture of its own. Find one that fits your brand, needs, and where you can also offer insight so as to build connections within the group.
Another tool for increasing brand awareness is LinkedIn Pulse, where you can directly publish your own unique content. This allows you to put your unique ideas and expertise in front of others who might recognize the value of your business insights and add you to their own professional network.
To build sustainable connections, you have to invest in getting to know people. The relationships with staying power are those which develop through a gradual, intentional process that can take months or even years of consistent engaging with one another. When building relationships, don't just focus on the professional, but also the personal and inspirational sides. This helps you to make stronger, more valuable connections.
“If you’re going to expect results straightaway, that is not the right approach. In business, the long-term relationship beats the ‘one night stand’ every time,” says Valerie Khoo, Founder and National Director of Australian Writers' Centre. Mutual trust forges meaningful partnerships, built to endure and evolve. When that trust solidifies, that is when it is most effective to ask for a favor or a connection.
Backing away from the computer screen and stepping out into the public sphere is critical if you want to build your network in such a relationship-driven industry. While standard networking events are valuable, they can be stuffy and unfocused.
Make a point of attending local networking functions through local businesses and industry chapters of business clubs. This will allow you to meet people that are more relevant, and likely more valuable, for your business and brand. For example, the San Diego Marketing Association is a good example of a local organization that holds networking and learning events regularly. Find one near you and get on their mailing list!
Additionally, don’t forget to check out non-traditional networking opportunities through sites like Meetup, which has a wide variety of groups that host niche mixers for everyone from writing professionals to retired teachers. You can also find specialized career-minded events at Meetup if you prefer the traditional networking style.
Relationships should never be one-sided. Ideally, they should equally benefit each person involved. Before asking for something from a potential contact, consider how you can be of use to them.
"When meeting someone who you think could be helpful, offer your services first. Ask them, ‘What do you need help with right now? What do you see yourself needing support with in the future?’” suggests Ted Rollins, global entrepreneur recognized by Inc. 500.
Rollins continues, “Being authentic with your connections and seeking to provide greater value makes them more likely to reciprocate. This sets the foundation for a strong network that is instrumental for both parties.”
Remember that there are many ways to help someone; sometimes, simply connecting someone with a like-minded individual is valuable.
Blogs, social media and other web-based content are effective networking channels, but entrepreneurs often use these tools solely for marketing their services and products. Coming across as self-promotional is not helpful to your personal brand—and can turn potential connections off.
The idea is to serve your contacts, not advertise or give your sales-pitch—at least not all of them, and definitely not all the time. Instead, produce content with an approachable, relatable voice. Jonathan Long, founder of Market Domination Media, recommends showcasing your human side on social media—how you spent the weekend, what new restaurant you tried or where you’re vacationing this summer—instead of shoving the business in people’s faces.
When done tactfully and respectfully, networking will help take your personal brand to the next level, which in turn can boost your business. So get outside of your comfort zone, be intentional about meeting others in the same industry, and don’t be afraid to make that first move. It could lead to a relationship that will change the direction of your business.
(Guest post by Jessica Thiefels)