Entrepreneurship can feel very lonely outside of client interactions. The proverb ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.’ reminds us of the power of relationships.
As an entrepreneur, networking is key to building relationships and sustaining success. Networking is an effective tool to develop meaningful business relationships while strengthening your capacity as an entrepreneur. As you make a social mark at networking events, keep these tips in mind.
Network with intention
Choose your networking event wisely. Events can cost energy, time and money, so make sure you attend with intention. Ask yourself four questions before considering a networking event:
What can I learn or gain insight on by attending this event?
Will attending help foster new and strong relationships?
How does my role or skill fit with the network offering?
Is there a direct connection or contact that should be made?
These questions will determine if attending the networking event is aligned with your current or future business goals. They allow you to be strategic beforehand so that you maximize your time and make the intentional connections that can help your business flourish.
Diversity is Key
A diverse network is helpful to expand your knowledge and business. Don’t underestimate what you can learn from colleagues with varying skill sets and life experiences. While developing your professional circle, consider some important categories of business and see where your peers fit in.
Having a creative in the loop keeps ideas fresh, a tech whiz is crucial in the digital age, someone versed in finance can support you from budget to fundraising, an adlo peer helps to organize or strategize, and a marketing maven can really revamp your brand.
It’s natural to gravitate toward like minds in business but remember that a diverse group of colleagues offer support beyond your skill set and introduce you to facets of your business that you wouldn’t typically engage with.
Follow Up and Follow Through
So you met a potential intern or investor at a panel yesterday. What now? Follow up the interaction with an email or follow through with the information you were asked for. If the thought of sending emails or phone calls seems overwhelming , manage it by having a communication plan that works for you. Here are some tips you can use to help you follow up with ease.
Have your contact info readily available. Make sure to have your new business cards handy and if you are reducing your carbon footprint; create a contact card in your phone that can be sent or shared digitally.
Consistent communication can be an overwhelming task personally and professionally. Set a specific day of the week or month to follow up with networking leads. Spending a set time to review and follow up with your connections minimizes distractions and streamlines your communication.
Be authentic! Authenticity is critical as you develop business relationships. Being open and honest about your business intentions creates authentic connections. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed or offer assistance for a colleague in need.
Include networking in your monthly or quarterly schedule to support your business capacity and outreach. Remember to be intentional about how you network, keep a diverse colleague community, and to follow through with your communications.
These tips can alleviate the anxiety of self-promotion while strengthening your brand and skill set. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your business out there!