4 Steps: How to business network successfully

how to network effectively

I’m a big believer in business networking and it’s a topic we’ve looked at from several different angles over the years.

Whenever we talk about networking, business professionals understand it’s importance and realize that it’s a big topic. It’s for those reasons that I’m going to break it down into some fundamental components today, because when you look at the “building blocks” of how to network effectively, it’s easier to make concrete plans that you can implement.

1. Micro networking

We’re going to start small and work our way up. Some of your most important and effective networking will happen locally in small groups. Frankly, in the old days (and still today, really) the Friday night poker game could be one of the best local venues for networking.

It doesn’t have to be a poker game or a Friday night. But the “institution” I’m talking about is some regular get-together where there is a commercial, community, or industry affinity between the people involved. It could be people in related industries, regular customers, local business owners, etc. And if not a poker game, it could be a bowling league, karaoke night, regular golf game, brew pub crawl, or any number of social events.

The good thing about these small, regular events is that you can organize them. That makes it easy for you to be networking effectively, because you’re making contact with all the others involved. You’re the hub.

2. Local networking

One step up from networking with a tight-knit circle of individuals, is networking with other local business or industry leaders. These groups are found in your town and your state. I’m thinking about groups such as your local chamber of commerce and various industry associations in your area.

If you’ve been successful with micro networking, you’ll have no problem parlaying your success there into success with bigger groups of people. Although I mentioned chambers of commerce above, networking anywhere your customers are likely to be is a good idea.

Again, step up and take a leadership role. Volunteer to head up events, because when you do, everything flows through you; you will be automatically networking by virtue of doing your job. And if you’re successful, you’ll also build your authority within your community. That authority will translate to trust and that trust will carry over to your business. Remember, even more than “companies,” we do business with people.

3. Wider networking

Once you have command of the higher echelons of local networking, jumping to national and even international events for networking purposes will be possible. Consider making presentations and holding seminars at trade shows. If you’ve been busy making presentations locally, be sure you get some nicely produced videos made. You can use those videos to land speaking engagements at events outside of your local area.

4. Virtual networking

The Internet is probably the single best of all business networking tools today. Being able to direct message Twitter users gives you a way to connect with leaders in your industry or potential clients. Introduce yourself to people you want to network with through the social media before you meet them in person. If you’re wondering how to network effectively at events, a “pre-introduction” via a Twitter direct message may be your best strategy.

With the proliferation of online video – webinars, Blab, Periscope, Google Hangouts, etc. – you have all kinds of options and opportunities to make connections over the Internet. Text-based social media, such as most of Facebook, also opens up some avenues for you to connect directly to individuals who can help your small business.

I don’t know the status of your business networking today, but if it’s something you need to improve and build on, consider the general progression of starting small and working your way up the ladder to bigger groups of people.