Before I moved back to the Bay of Plenty last July I knew how important having a strong network was going to be as I started my new adventure of being self-employed as an SEO Consultant.
So I made a point of reaching out to lots of people via LinkedIn and to set up coffee meetings with likeminded people ready for my arrival.
Just over a year on, and that was one of the best decisions I made! My business is doing well and my network has been a huge part of that, so I’m going to unpack a few of the key things I have learned about building a strong network:
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people: it can be daunting reaching out to people you don’t know for coffee, at least I think it was at some point… I’ve done it so much now it just seems normal. Comes with practice I guess – just do it.
- Don’t try and sell anything to anyone: maybe this is just a personal preference as a marketer and not a salesperson, but if someone is pushy with me when I first meet them in trying to sell me something, I find it very offputting. If someone wants to work with you they’ll let you know when they’re ready, a network isn’t a “network of leads” it’s a network of people, there’s a big difference in approach.
- Use LinkedIn: it’s been an amazing tool for me to meet some really cool people, if you’re in B2B and not using it yet, then it’s time to figure out how.
- Do coffee’s, not networking events: I don’t attend “networking” events, I only occasionally go to events purely because I want to. Having a coffee 1-on-1 is a much better way to get to know someone on a deeper level and you are more likely to build a lasting relationship this way.
- Follow-up: keep in touch with people you like, comment on their posts if you see them, help them if you can and send them referrals if appropriate. It doesn’t end with one meeting – try and add value to the relationship if you value it.
- No agendas: over the year I’ve not had an agenda with any of the new people I’ve met and it’s worked well for me, it really takes the pressure off and allows you to take the relationship more naturally.
- Meet people you think you will like: it should be obvious but if you’re just aiming to meet people from insurance companies because your company works with insurance companies but you don’t like the stereotypical person who works at insurance companies, then for starters you’re not networking, you’re prospecting, and secondly, you’re likely not going to enjoy their company which will show, and your network will be a dud.
- Think long-term: I bang this drum often, but thinking long-term beats short-term almost every time… one valuable relationship over many years can easily beat several short-term relationships which come and go.
- Be honest: say what you want out of the relationship and be genuine with it, when I meet new people it’s most often just to get to know them and that’s it… although these days I have a lot more people reaching out to me who want to meet me and use my SEO services, but that’s a different matter.
- Have fun with it: building a network can and should be extremely fun and rewarding, I’ve previously done the networking events and hated it… it doesn’t have to be that way, find a way to network that works for your personal style and the social situations you enjoy.
Having a good network in business is valuable for so many reasons and the benefits are probably incalculable… you just don’t know when something positive is going to come your way as a result.
How good is your network?
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