13 Ways Business Owners Can Increase their Network
The only reason I ever made money [got leads and sales] is because of the networking that I have done. One such example is: My meeting one of Superchooha’s [My ex startup] first corporate client at a twestival, moving forward, he become our biggest retainer.
So let me take you through a few networking formulas I have applied in my life.
1. Help others:
One way to increase your network is to help others increase theirs. Confused? Apart from the good karma that you will collect through helping others, you will also essentially get access to the persons’ network. A kind gesture now can allow you to reach out to that person for a ‘connect to someone in his network.’
2. Use Rapportive:
Rapportive is a chrome/firefox mail app that allows you to see the social profiles of the person whom you are exchanging mails with. The idea is to not only know more about that person’s background but also start following/adding him on social networks. The reason being, your email interactions might stop after the specific work activity ends. But the person and you, both will login to your social profiles. The objective is to stay in touch with them there. Also many a times the person you are interacting with changes jobs and with that their email id or number. But they most certainly don’t change their social profiles.
3. Attend offline events:
It is one of the best ways to expand your network. In the first year of my [ex] startup Superchooha, all I did was attend events. The second year we just kept getting inbound leads all because of the networking I did in the first one year. Don’t restrict yourself to attending only your industry or start up events. Even look at attending casual events like tweet ups , coffee club or book club events. Feel free to exchange cards in all these events.
4. Follow up:
In the following week of attending an event, drop an email to all the visiting cards you collected. Something on the lines of: “It was great connecting to you at the event, we didn’t get a chance to speak in detail. What exactly is your company into?” This continues the conversation. They share about their work and you get a chance to talk about yours. At the same time, using rapportive, add them to your social networks, especially Linkedin.
5. Use Linkedin:
It is one of the leading social network sites that’s allows you to create your online resume and also build a professional network. Its potential is yet to be tapped by a bunch of entrepreneurs. Using your email id database, add your initial set of connections. Participate in discussions in groups and answers and not only increase your visibility but also flaunt your expertise. Go and meet these connections offline, whether they are going to give you business immediately or not, if the profile looks interesting, go ahead meet.
6. Request for connects:
In the book, “The One Minute Networker” Bryan Thayer talks about a human network. Through 6 people that I know, I will end up knowing the whole world. We just have to tap into that human network. Don’t shy away from asking your network to connect you to relevant people who will offer you business. If they do, please be kind enough to thank them and return the favour sometime in the future.
7. Give free advice:
On twitter, almost once a week, I get people asking me queries on and aboutsome social media tool or platform. I make all efforts to answer most of them. I’d also advise you to be proactive and create good content for free that can be shareable. The more the people read it and like it, the more they want to get in touch with you.
8. Be genuine and humble:
No one likes to stay in touch with someone who is arrogant, nor would they want to introduce you to someone from their network. I have had instances where even my competitors have helped me only because we share a healthy competitive spirit.
9. Take breaks:
The reason why Path , the iPhone social network has a limit of 150 friends is because they were “Inspired by Oxford University Professor Robin Dunbar, whose research delves deeply into the number of trusted relationships humans can maintain throughout life. We tend to have 5 best friends, 15 good friends, 50 close friends and family, and 150 total friends.”
But we live in an age where ‘I follow 400 people on just twitter' and I am not even beginning to count Facebook, Linkedin, my work contacts, my area contacts, my relatives, my friends’ boyfriends’ pets’ vet. You get the gist. So the networking can get overwhelming every now and then. Taking breaks in between, going underground and then resurfacing, helps a lot.
10. Remember names and professions
It is impossible to remember all names and profession. I use small tricks like saving the name along with their company name in my mobile memory. For e.g. Ankita Social Samosa. That way, when they are calling me, I am saved from the embarrassment of not knowing which Ankita is calling. Rapportive also allows you to write notes attached to the persons email id. So I write notes like, “Met at social media panel discussion”, “Yoga contact” etc. I also quickly revisit old email exchanges before initiating another discussion with that person.
11. Ask influencers for help:
More often than not, they will have a huge network. Oh well, that is why they are called influencers, though this one is a little tricky. Not all of them will be willing to help. But you really have nothing to lose. At the most they will ignore your mail/tweet/message. But if they do get on to introducing you to their network, then my dear friend, you have hit a jackpot!
12. Send gifts:
It acts as a way for people to continue remembering you. It can be very cost effective too, you don’t have to go for expensive gifts. The only thing that you will have to do is give time to selecting the gift, ordering and delivering.
The most important, yet the least acted upon. If you don’t listen to people when they talk, you won’t register a single thing about them. You won’t be able to create a profile of theirs in your mind and your mind won’t be able to reproduce the name when we need it the most.
These have been extremely handy to me. My networking skills are what have got me where I am today. I truly believe every entrepreneur should sharpen his or her networking skills. As a dear friend is always found quoting, "Network is networth”
About the Author:
A Social Media strategist and consultant, Ankita Gaba has co-founded her second start up, Socialsamosa.com, an Indian Social Media Knowledge Portal. She loves networking and is a shoeoholic. You can tweet to her at @ankitagaba