Friday, October 3, 2008

7 Keys to Business Networking Growth

7 Keys to Business Networking Growth
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Referral networking in business is not going away. No matter how high-tech, plugged in, or globalized the world becomes, networking will be around forever. You need networking, and you need it to work for you. But as consumers, clients, customers, and executives all realize the power and usefulness of networking you are faced with the difficulty of discriminating how, when, why, and how much networking you should be doing.

For example, if you joined every networking web site there was, you could make a full time job of just filling out web forms. Or, if you attended every networking function in your industry, you would do nothing but eat, drink, and mingle.

So, what are you going to do. This article attempts to lay out seven keys to business networking growth.

1. Become the go-to guy for a networking question. As you begin to network, your circle of acquaintances grows. Your rolodex of numbers increases. And you start running out of room to put business cards. In time, you will build a reputation as a pretty good networker. Now and then someone may come up to you and say, "Hey, do you happen to know a good franchise consultant?" You dig in your drawer, whip out a business card and say, "Give him a call. I met him last March. Nice guy." Bingo. You've scored a point. You've made a connection. And you've won some trust. Eventually, a few more people will come up to you and say, "Hey, I heard that you may know a good marketing firm..." And so it has begun. By and by, you will receive a certain degree of recognition as someone who is very well connected, knows a lot of people, and can point people in the right direction. But networking is a snowballing adventure. The more people you know, the more people you can get to know. The more people that come to you with networking questions, the more people you can find out about and get to know. Make it your goal to become the networking guru in your space.

2. Seek opportunities to help others. Helping people is at the core of networking. A networking attempt is so much more than a handshake and an exchange of a name card. It is so much more than accepting a connection on LinkedIn. The value of your network is not measured by the amount of names that you know, but by the amount of help you can provide. As you survey the networking landscape, don't look at is as a host of names to know. Look at is as a host of people to help. After all, the only truly valuable networking will be from people whom you know personally and whom you have helped. Once you help people, especially in a sacrificial or altruistic way, you've won their trust. They have a degree of confidence in you. That confidence will translate into them recommending you. That is exactly what you want. That is the way to grow your network, and that is a crucial key to business networking growth.

3. Seek opportunities for others to help you. But it works both ways. Not only should you be helping others, but others can be helping you. If you need help, ask for it. Gaining help from others creates a human connection that can't be gained any other way. Besides, you get to see the skills of another from a unique angle. You get to see how the person works. You get to experience their product. And you get to establish a mutual relationship of trust. That goes miles in the networking world. People willl remember those whom they help, and it is the perfect way to build a strong, lasting network.

4. Be everywhere often. Though it sounds daunting, it is possible to carve out a significant presence for yourself. The key word here is "strategic." As I mentioned, it is an incredible waste of time to join every networking site out there. Though you will receive a plethora of invitations, be selective. Join only the ones that will best accomplish your purposes. It should be standard, however, to at least have a presence on LinkedIn, the current networking site leader. Other industry-specific websites should be consulted as well. In addition, attend several strategic functions as often as you can. Again, too much is too much, but make it your practice to be at the important ones as often as possible.

5. Know people well. When you meet people, remember their names and some specifics about them. Don't be ashamed to write names down. You need to remember them. Carry around a pen and pad of paper, and jot down notes. Not just for names, but facts, too. When you pick up the phone to call that potential customer, it will go a long way to say, "By the way, how's your mother-in-law? I remember you mentioned she had surgery last week."

6. Host something. Be a networking leader and go ahead and host something. It can be as simple as a backyard barbecue for all the CFOs in your town. Or it can be as big as a golf outing for all the engineering firms. Either way, you can quickly become a networking mogul, just by organizing events. After all, once the event is over, you have a list of everyone who signed up--complete with numbers and all.

7. Finally, make it fun. Networking can be a fulfilling hobby. After all, you're interacting with people. People can be a lot of fun. Face the challenge of being a networking guru, but make it an enjoyable and refreshing hobby.

Phil Evans is a master at the art of online networking and internet marketing in business. He challenges business owners to grow their offline business by harnessing the power of the internet. He's also the co-founder of SynergyBizNet, find out more at:

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