Networking is a broad term. Generally it means that we exchange business and contact information with colleagues or potential business contacts. Many people today say they use networking skills to build up their businesses, but do they really know how to go about building their business networking skills in an organized manner. Here’s a way to go about it:
1. Analyze what you want to gain from networking. Do you want to meet like-minded colleagues with whom you can exchange information? Do you want to find potential customers? Do you want to do both?
2. Determine who, based on what you want to gain from networking, you want in your network.
3. Devise a plan for building your networking skills. List the steps and the possibilities for getting in touch with those you want in your network.
4. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Distribute your business cards to everyone you meet. Make sure your business card identifies your business, your website, your email address, your phone number, etc. Literally give a business card to everyone you meet. You never know when that card might be passed to someone who will be important to your business.
5. Create a web presence and communicate with others. Establish a website and make it easy for people to find you. Be active on the Internet, so your business will come up when someone searches for it.
6. Create a mailing list of those you know are important to your business. Communicate with them on a consistent basis and encourage them to help you increase the number in the group. You could do this through establishing a newsletter that you send out about the business. Make the information in it helpful to those who receive it. When you send it out, ask those receiving it to pass it along to others they think might be interested. Your newsletter could be on paper or sent out electronically on the Internet.
7. Attend conferences, meetings, seminars, etc., on topics related to your business. This is a great way to meet people in your field and to establish face-to-face relationships with them. Before you go, pull together some ideas about how you can help each other, so you’ll have some networking ideas to offer to others.
Networking can be very helpful to you and your business. The key to building your business network is to be consistent and to respond to others when they communicate with you. Networking works best if it is for the betterment of all, so don’t make it only about you and your business.