Have you noticed that many successful entrepreneurs seem to “know everybody?” It’s not a coincidence. They have a good network.
People looking for jobs these days often hear that it’s who you know that gets you into the best positions, rather than applying to “help wanted” ads. And that’s true also for entrepreneurs who want to expand their small businesses. Growing your network gives you the opportunity to meet people who can assist you in finding opportunities and closing sales. And, it can introduce you to others whom you can partner with in strategic alliances.
Just finding a few connections per week can get you started. Focus on looking for introductions to people you have identified as good contacts and plan to meet them. Meanwhile, your assistance in offering referrals, introductions and assistance to others whom you meet in the networking process will make you an indispensable partner.
How to get started? Pay it forward. Whenever you meet someone new who seems like a good contact for you, ask them about their business. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Showing a genuine personal interest in others is a great way to break the ice and start new business relationships that could prove fruitful. If you have an idea, opportunity or possible connection for them, follow up. You will find that eventually you are able to grow a network of business contacts to stay in touch with.
And, you can also benefit. One part of networking is helping others; the other part is receiving their assistance. Be open to receiving referrals and assistance, and understand what it is that you are seeking and how they may help you. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. Other business people who understand the process of networking will work with you for mutual benefit.
Creating a strategic partnership can evolve from getting to know your network well, and identifying those who share your audience but do not directly compete with you. Find the value that you offer them, and what they can do for you as well. Then, partner up to increase your “reach” and help promote each other.
Some ways to partner with members of your network:
- Recommend your strategic partner to your own customer base and others through email marketing campaigns.
- Write about your partner’s business on your own blog; they can reciprocate.
- Share a booth, a pop-up space, or do a trunk show together. Bring in customers from each of your lists.
- Share each other’s social media posts and spread the word.
Have you identified any potential networking partners? Have a conversation about how you can work together to create a win/win situation.