Success as an entrepreneur is not only what know, it’s also who you know.
Are you a small business owner who’s just starting out? If your business isn’t widely known, it’s likely you’re struggling to sell your products or services. Without a big marketing budget, the best thing you can do is lean on other people to support, vouch and go to bat for you based on the fact that they know, like and trust you.
These people are your network. The more relationships in your network, the faster your business can get off the ground. This is certainly something that made me comfortable taking the leap from corporate life to entrepreneur life.
What’s Defines Good Networking?
Networking’s all about cultivating trusted relationships. The key word here is “trusted.” It’s about a lot more than just meeting people once and exchanging cards, or connecting on LinkedIn. Building a network means developing real and lasting connections with people who truly know you and believe in you – people who trust you even knowing nothing about your business.
These trusted relationships aren’t built overnight. They have to be developed authentically over time. This means you have to genuinely want to get to know people and care about them, and then put the work in to create sustaining relationships.
Networking’s certainly not just something for entrepreneurs – it’s an important activity for every professional. Even if you aren’t planning to leave your corporate job, a broad network of trusted relationships outside of work will help you feel more secure in your day job simply by knowing you have people who will help you find another job or support your business if you leave. A broad network of trusted relationships provides psychological safety.
How to Build Trusted Relationships
You can get networking tips all over the Internet, but building a trusted network is a whole different deal. Having built my career over 25 years and spent the last few years prepping to leave my corporate job, I’ve focused on not just growing it, but strengthening it. Here are my top networking tips:
- Attend events and join groups that align with your interests.If you do things you enjoy, you are likely to meet people you like because they share similar interests. This makes building real relationships so much easier.
- Diversify your network.Challenge yourself to build relationships with people different than you in terms of experience, perspective, ethnicity or gender, and more. Getting to know people different from you is the best way to learn and grow. It will make both you and your business that much better.
- Follow up intentionally but authentically.Consistency reach out to people in ways that are purposeful while still being authentic to you. The secret sauce to building trusted relationships is to make people feel thought of and to follow through on your words and deeds.
Here are some ideas to reach out to people in ways that make them feel thought of throughout the year:
- Send cards on birthdays or holidays.
- Reach out for no reason at all just to say you’re thinking of them. (I met someone who makes a habit of calling or emailing 5 people a day!)
- Make an impact with handwritten cards or a phone call since they’re seldom used anymore.
- Host people for parties or events. This is my favorite approach since I like to go out and host a lot. Even if they cannot make it, they are flattered they’ve been asked.
- Share information or events with others. If I come across something interesting for me I email it to others I know will also enjoy.
- Tell people when something reminded you of them, whether it’s an article you read or a movie you saw.
- Engage with people on social media by liking and commenting on their posts. Remember that you need both online and face-to-face interactions, so don’t rely solely on social media.
No matter what actions you take, lead with curiosity and a concern for the well-being of others. Soon you’ll have a network of trusted relationships that will not only help you professionally, but will enrich your life personally.