One of the most underused tools in growing a thriving business is the art of networking. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Tesla were all built through networking. Sure, it is easy to see a photo of the business elite like Zuckerberg or Bezos and assume that these are super successful CEOs that raised an empire merely by cash injection and smart employees. The truth is that no one has ever built a successful business without also building connections to men and women who helped them take the next step up the ladder of influence.
Growing up, my impression of business came from the phrase "It's not about what you know, it's about who you know." That's not entirely untrue, but you have to rearrange a few words to get the best-kept secret to advancing your career: "It's not about who you know, it's about who knows you."
If you have ever dealt with a marketing firm, you have probably heard the sermon of "brand awareness" preached adamantly. The best lies always contain a thread of truth so that we will assume that the rest of the message must be true. Brand awareness is extremely important, but it isn't completely reliant on billboards or social media posts. To be clear, those are a great way to make the image of your business stick in the minds of potential customers. How many of us can sing the McDonald's song? So, that marketing works but is not enough to launch you over the hurdles you face on the way to achieving your goals. Marketing is only half of the equation but when a great campaign is paired with networking, you have a powerhouse of opportunity in your hands.
Over the past 3 years of networking, I have achieved some accomplishments that I didn't even know that I wanted. The number of opportunities and the growing realm of influence have placed me in many positions that populate my overall dream. I have been voted in as a board member of the North Little Rock Young Professionals, chairman of a leads group, a public speaker for several organizations, and more government agencies are reaching out to me to host workshops on networking. There are several steps to follow how we grew from an unknown marketing agency to an authority on connecting businesses.
Make an appearance at networking events
The first step is the most obvious. You wouldn't expect your employees to have a job if they didn't show up, so it makes sense that you can't expect to meet people if you never go where they are. Networking events come in many colors and flavors. I personally love going to a variety of events: drinks at After Hours events, morning coffee meetups, black-tie annual events, and small gatherings at a water fountain. The faces that you see in each type of networking event will be drastically different and the idea is to find which events fit for you, develop a reputation among different industries, and to build a contact list that can help you absolutely dominate any issues that you face as a business owner.
Prepare your tools
It is absolutely necessary to have a few tools of the trade:
Social Media Accounts
Your cards should have every conceivable way to contact you. This is going to be vital for your new connections to reach out to you and grow the relationship. If you don't have time to print cards, it would be wise to at least set up an account at Linktree and share that link as you shake hands.
Check the guest list
One of the best ways to make the connections that you want, see if the events that you are planning to attend have a Facebook page. You can see a list of who is interested, going, and engaging in comments. This will give you a good idea of who you should expect to meet. If those people have public accounts on social media, you can skim through and grab some interesting subjects to talk about.
Join a chamber of commerce
When someone first brought up that I should join a chamber of commerce, I assumed that it should be in the city that I live in. Wrong. At the time, I was living in a small town and I quickly learned that not all chambers are created equal. Do some research by seeing who is a member, how many members there are, and then visiting them to see if it's the right feel for you. Each chamber has different benefits and you need to make sure that what is being offered is worth your time. I chose the North Little Rock Chamber because of how many events they have throughout the year and the amount of showcasing they offer to each member without additional fees. It's a 35-minute drive from my house that I make nearly every day, but each time I show up, I grow my network with new exciting connections.
Collect and follow
At each event that you attend, remember how important it is for you to have all the proper tools and know that the same applies to everyone that you met. Collect business cards and keep them in the same pocket. You don't want to misplace them. The day after each networking event, take the cards and write an email to each person that you met and let them know how great it was meeting them. Always include a refresher on what it is you do. They most likely met a lot of people and after a few drinks, it can get a little blurry on who was who. Offer to get coffee or lunch sometime to learn more about what they do. These types of meetings are how we have grown our clientele over the years. Even if the new connection doesn't have any use for your services, they will know someone who does and is more likely to refer you because you reached out.
The main information to take away from this condensed guide is that opportunities aren't going to fall in your lap unless you're sitting where they are falling. For any help in growing your network or preparing your tools like a website or social media marketing, call us at 501-208-6801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help.