One of the main reasons some businesses are successful whilst others fail is the contacts and connections which successful businesses muster. These connections are not only important to be able to enter certain markets and gain new customers, but could also act as advisers or a budding start up. The most tried and tested way to achieve these contacts is through networking. The opportunities that arise from effective networking can lead to your business benefiting from cooperation in the form of joint ventures, client leads and market exposure.
Tim Ferriss, author, blogger and motivation speaker says, “you are the average of the five people you associate with most”. Networking is the key to achieving more contacts and also friends who are like minded and able to help you with their experiences. Networking also gives you the satisfaction of being able to help others, by giving them leads or giving advice, and thus boosts your confidence too. Nevertheless many new entrepreneurs shy away from networking because of the time is takes or because they are shy to speak to new people. Fortunately the web has provided many websites and apps to help you. Before you begin, I recommend you be a little more specific on what contacts you would like. Are you looking for a mentor, for business leads or for a chat with a professional? Loosely defining what you are looking for will help you find it easier.
I am almost certain that LinkedIn does not require any introductions, but although you have probably set up an account and filled in some of your details, you are still not using it to the full. LinkedIn is the networking social media of choice because it revolves around professional competences. You won’t see anyone sharing pictures of their food or their dog (unless they’re food or pet professionals), but instead you will see a person’s professional background and what that person wishes to achieve.
To really succeed at networking on LinkedIn you need to use it a lot more often than you do now. Start searching for people who fit the description of what you are looking for and start sending them messages. Do not SPAM, instead write short, personalised messages to each person you wish to get in touch with. In the message show that you’ve gone through their profile and you would like to say hello and introduce yourself.
To expand your networking reach, join groups on LinkedIn which are related to your industry or where you would expect to find the contacts you are looking for. Many people ask and answer questions in these groups and you need to participate actively in this. Don’t just ask questions, but answer as many as you are can and are capable to. You could even follow up an answer to a great question by messaging the person who asked it and offering more assistance should the person need it. All the contacts you make, whether you are helping them or they are helping you, could help lead you to your biggest sale.
If you want faster results from your networking efforts, then consider signing up to Scheduit, a “dating app, but for professional business meetings”. This app is designed to help you find business professionals in your current location. Whether you are at home or travelling, Scheduit locates the most suitable contacts located nearest to you. You can view their profiles before contacting them through the app to set up a face to face meeting. One of the great features of this app is that is helps you fill in those empty hours on business trips or in between meetings.
I find Scheduit to be a great app to have during conferences or networking events. At these events it is common to speak to the persons around you but these won’t necessarily be the best people you could talk to. During the event you can search for other people who are in the room with you and with whom you share a lot more professional attributes. In this way you would be succeeding at making the most of your time without wasting it trying to find the right contacts in the traditional way.
Meetups is a similar to Scheduit but instead of looking for professional individuals, you can search for groups and become an online (and offline) member. Groups in Meetups vary considerably from different industries, governmental organisations, NGOs and hobbies. This variety allows you to locate potential contacts easier based either on their profession, their favourite pastimes or their causes.
Join a number of these groups online and stay updated with their next event. You do not need to attend every or any event and you could keep your presence strictly virtual. However to really engage with the members it would be best to participate actively in the events so that the other members (and your ideal contacts) could get to know you better. Meetups allows you to see which members are going to a particular event so that you can join in the events where the most people that matter to you will be present.
Networking through Q&A
This is not the name of an app or website, but rather a collection of websites which can help your networking efforts prosper faster. Through the use of websites such as Quora, Reddit and Clarity you can ask and answer questions on practically any subject. Whilst Clarity is more business related, Quora and Reddit allow users to ask and answer questions ranging from business to astronomy, the weather or the election. Just like with LinkedIn groups, the key to success lies in answering more questions than you ask. Make sure that your answers have substance as they can be down voted and you could also ultimately be banned if you are reported as being a spammer.
Each user who asks or answers questions has a profile with a bio. If you come across a smart question which you can answer, you might want to get in touch with the person through a private message. These websites see so many visitors and so many new questions and answers that to remain visible you need to be constantly active as after a few days your questions or answers become buried by newer ones.
It is now time for you to take up the challenge of success networking. Use these websites and apps to get to know at least one new person a day. Choose this person carefully and make sure that, in Tim Ferriss’ words, they elevate your average with their skills, experience or mental attitude.