There are two main levels of networking for the modern-day entrepreneur: virtual and real-life. While virtual ties have their own strengths, the strongest partnerships and the deepest trusts are still built in the real-world. That is why, as an entrepreneur, you should want to go beyond your virtual network and build stronger ties offline. Start your real-world networking today with the help of these tips:
1. Discover your value
Before going out to build your real-world network, consider the value you can bring to potential partners. Keep in mind that value is the currency of real-world networking. How can you assist your potential partners’ business in a way no one else can? Will you be able to complement their network? Once you know what you have to offer, it’s time to get ready to meet people offline.
2. Get referred
Most entrepreneurs are likely to respond to an invitation if you are referred by someone they know and trust. Your family, friends, and current business acquaintances can introduce you to people who can help grow your business. Most of your blind invitations through email or LinkedIn introductions may end up in the trash, but getting a direct recommendation from someone you know will greatly boost your credibility.
3. Invite them for a quick bite
Group networking dinners are great but are best reserved for “second dates.” When meeting a potential partner for the first time, you would want to make the meeting to be fruitful yet brief. A “Hey, can I bring you coffee at your office and take 30 minutes of your time?” is more likely to get a “yes” than an invitation for lunch or dinner after work. Start with a “soft ask” so your invitation will feel more like an open, casual offer and less of a commitment.
4. Join local business groups
Any social gathering will increase your likelihood of meeting potential business partners. Participating in an event by a non-profit organization or attending an alumni gathering at your alma mater exposes you to a broad range of professionals. Your local Chamber of Commerce should also be at the top of your list. The Chamber of Commerce is full of entrepreneurs who are willing to make referrals for other like-minded individuals.
5. Attend business events
A business gathering can give your company exposure to tens, hundreds, or even thousands of like-minded individuals. It gives you an opportunity to meet people who are looking to do the same thing – expand their business through a solid network. Getting qualified leads and making quality connections are much easier if you attend an event designed to do that.
A networking event will give you the chance to meet prominent and successful people whom you have aspired to connect with in person. It will also give you the chance to meet suppliers, potential partners, and other individuals who can fuel the growth of your business. More importantly, a business networking event exposes you to the brilliant ideas and methodologies that have spurred the growth of many successful enterprises.
Meeting new people can help steer your business into the right direction and help you identify new areas of growth. In fact, many successful networkers think that increasing your contact base is just the consequence of growth. It starts with getting great ideas from other people and learning from the best in the business.
Ethan Robinson is an Australia-based digital marketer who splits his time between Sydney and New York. He currently leads the digital marketing team for NY-based The Small Business Expo, US’ largest business trade show.