You work hard networking. You meet all sorts of interesting people, but the question is, what should you do next? How should you foster these relationships? And what are the potential benefits of spending time on these sorts of activities?
Here are six tips to help guide you in cultivating strong business networking relationships.
1. Show a genuine interest in your colleagues’ businesses. One of the guiding principles of the group Business Networking International is that it’s important to show interest in – and care about – other business colleagues’ needs first. In other words, help other people succeed, not because you expect something in return, but rather because you genuinely want to see the person succeed.
So how can you help other business owners?
- Share ideas. If you come across an interesting article on marketing, don’t hoard it. Share it.
- Be a sounding board. Provide helpful, honest feedback. They won’t forget it.
- Provide resources. Maybe it will be in the form of extra storage space or an extra intern for a company event. There are a variety of ways you can provide resources.
- Mentor. This can be especially powerful if someone is at a more junior level than you and/or just getting started in the industry (think college grads or people making a career change).
How will this benefit you? Well, helping other people will likely make you feel good. But, over time, you’ll also develop a reputation as being someone who is a generous thought leader. That’s a good thing, too!
2. Be seen outside your office. It’s easy to get mired in the day-to-day stuff at the office. But it’s important to get out and mingle with fellow professionals. If you belong to a group like your local Chamber or Rotary, make sure you’re not simply a member in name only. Participate in the events.
How will this benefit you? The social aspect will be a good break from the daily grind, and meeting other energetic business folks will help energize you.
3. Follow up, follow up, follow up. After you attend a networking event, follow up with the people you meet. Schedule a coffee chat. (Here are tips for rocking each and every network meeting.) Learn about their needs and their business (see item #1). If you promised something, follow through. Create a way to stay in touch with these folks as well. No, they shouldn’t be dumped into your customer database. Instead, you should create a separate database of networking contacts, and, just like customers, you should reach out to these folks on a consistent basis (not necessarily with the same regularity as customers). Quarterly “touches” are a good place to start – increase or decrease communications based on responses/feedback.
4. Say thank you. See that list above where we talk about helping business owners? Well, if anyone offers you this sort of help, make sure you thank them, ideally with a hand written note. (Don’t underestimate the power of thank you cards.)
How will this benefit you? It will help solidify the fact that you’re a class act and that you have good manners.
5. Keep LinkedIn up to date…spend some time participating in groups. Take advantage of tools like LinkedIn. It’s a great (and easy) way to stay connected, and it’s perfect if you really can’t get out of the office to network as much as you’d like. Here are some tips for rocking your LinkedIn profile and company page.
How will this benefit you? It increases your online visibility, and it’s something you can do from the comfort of your office, your home, wherever.
6. Make sure you have some quality promotional items to hand out. Let’s face it: when everyone is doing a ton of networking, it’s easy to get names confused and to even — gasp! – forget the person you met for coffee this morning. Make sure you stand out by offering a promotional product that does the same. Need ideas? Our friendly customer service reps at Amsterdam Printing can help and offer suggestions.
How will this benefit you? Promotional products will help you be remembered. And that’s what it’s all about, right?
How do you cultivate strong business networking relationships? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.