5 tips for successful networking

Your network is one of the pillars on which the success of your business will rest. In fact, having a ready-made network is one of the reasons so many people consider buying a franchise over starting a business alone. Good franchise opportunities come with a global network of suppliers, supporters and colleagues included in the agreement taking the legwork out of building B2B relationships from scratch. But whether you’re a solo business owner, entrepreneur, franchise owner or franchisee, growing your professional network and keeping it healthy is always going to pay dividends in the long-run. Here are some handy tips for successful networking:   

1) Keep it slow, subtle and steady

  Start networking from the first day you open the doors of your business, if not before. One day, you may need to call on the strength of your network in an emergency. But deliberate network building always works better if you’re able to do it with no ulterior motive. If you have no desire to immediately sell or get anything out of your networking activities, people can tell and tend to respond positively. Starting your networking activities from the beginning and taking them slowly, subtly and steadily will almost always be your best option.  

2) Remember that good networking is give and take

  A good business relationship is one which results in quid pro quo. If you are constantly asking people what they would be willing to do for you, they will quickly realise that you are providing no value on your side of the relationship. This means that in the early stages of many networking opportunities, it’s often best to be the one offering more value: For instance, if you can provide a free or reduced-cost service when someone really needs it – without necessarily demanding anything back – you’d better believe that they will remember you when it’s your turn to be in need.  

3) Let other people introduce you to people

  Your circle of friends of business friends may already be larger than you think. If you’ve got a good relationship with someone, they will almost certainly be willing to provide you with a referral to someone else who they know, like and trust. Then, when you’re in a position to be the introducer, enjoy it. Don’t expect to get anything out of it. But know that the people you’ve successfully introduced may be all the more willing to help you out in the future.  

4) Use the power of social media

  LinkedIn is obviously the current champion of online business networking. It’s an easy way to locate the kind of professionals you might need to meet – without insisting on the pressure of a personal meeting. A gentle approach to a potential connection is almost always going to be better in the online space too. Consider commenting on an article of theirs or responding to one of their comments to begin a conversation. Again, being able to quietly show that you have something of value to offer them in return makes for a much more positive networking opportunity than situations when you are clearly asking for a hand-out. It goes without saying that you should always keep your online profiles healthy and up-to-date.  

5) Always follow up

  Especially if you’ve said you would, following up with previous contacts is absolutely critical. If you said you would do something for them, don’t forget to do it. Don’t let that nascent relationship die over time either. You need to keep it breathing – preferably at least once or twice a year ongoing at a minimum, and possibly more in the short-term. Make notes about your contacts. What interests them? Where did you meet? What did you talk about? It’s all going to help you keep those hard-fought-for networking relationships active for when opportunity calls.
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