By Chris Jutt
A wise man once exclaimed, “Never Stop Networking!” While I certainly appreciate the sentiment behind that statement, I’ve come to learn that when it comes to networking, it is the quality of your connections that really adds value to your small business and spurs growth.
What is a quality connection?
A quality connection can be measured in several ways. If someone is an influencer in your industry, then that person definitely is valuable to your business. If you are connected with a colleague who helps generate new business opportunities, then of course you will hold that person in high regard.
That being said, one aspect of networking that is overlooked is the ability to obtain access to the people who reside within the network of each of your connections. Capitalizing on those extended networks will simply do wonders for your business and expand your professional reach even further into the pool of quality contacts.
Here are three ways that you can make sure your network works for you:
- Establish and keep trust. Once you form a new connection, it is important to build up and then maintain a certain level of trust. First impressions mean everything when it comes to turning a networking lead into a part of your actual network, so it is vital to make sure you don’t rely solely on how you were introduced to that person. Do your due diligence and make sure you can add value to your new contact’s business and overall network as well. Also, just like any other networking meeting, you should present yourself as a professional and provide your newest connection with a business card that you are confident in presenting to him or her. Business cards increase brand awareness and visibility while delivering the pertinent contact information along the way, and these days there are so many ways to create a sharp-looking card that really reflects the uniqueness of your brand’s identity.
- Gather an online network and actively engage with them. Digital networking is assuredly a vital part of a modern networking plan, so waste no time updating your professional profile online. Your printed business cards and digital profiles should be a consistent reflection of your brand’s identity, and both should be as appealing and inviting as possible for your connections. Keeping the conversation going with your newest contacts online – or conversely, generating meetings offline thanks to your digital networking efforts – is best achieved through active engagement across all channels. If you engage with others and successfully nurture a valuable network, you will wind up with reciprocal relationships across the board. When you are proactive, your connections and their connections will be receptive, and you will wind up with not just “fans” or “followers” but brand ambassadors as well.
- Get involved with business clubs. There are many local clubs in your area that will welcome you and your small business into the fold. Rotary, Kiwanis, BNI, Lions, and of course, the local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce are just a few clubs in which you can find unbeatable ways to make connections with professional peers. Bring your business cards and marketing materials, come prepared to mingle, have fun and definitely jump at the chance to speak on a relevant industry topic at one of the many events offered.
Remember to Set Goals and Know Your Audience
Effectively networking yourself means having a goal, familiarizing yourself with your audience and treating the interests and needs of those you meet as if they are your own. Once you maximize your presence by actively networking across all vital channels, the great expanse of your network will be buzzing with activity, effectively working for you.
Over time, you will be able to develop and maintain a strong, flourishing network that will be the basis of years of healthy connections with continued referrals and the chance for your small business to explore new professional horizons.
Chris Jutt is area manager for Minuteman Press International. He has been part of the Minuteman Press franchise system for over 6 years and is instrumental in supporting Minuteman Press franchise locations in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. For Minuteman Press franchise opportunities, visit http://www.minutemanpressfranchise.com. Tweet to Minuteman Press @minutemanintl.