Now that you already know why you need business networking for your startup it would probably be a good idea to grow your network of contacts . Here are a couple steps that will help you get there:
- Go out, meet people. Can’t really put it any simpler – you need to meet people face to face. It’s a web world, but people are social creatures and there is nothing more social than having a few drinks at 4am in a dodgy bar. Kidding, but seriously, check out meeting oriented sites like Meetup.com or relevant events on Facebook and LinkedIn – sign up to at least one event a week for starters, you can be more selective later.
- Be prepared. Get decent business cards, even if you’re just thinking about creating a startup. Make them meaningful, so people know who you’re after they get sober the following day (you can use MOO to get different graphics on each one of your cards). If you run out of cards, get a pen and paper to take notes or fire up your phone whenever someone gives you his/her details. Check the list of people attending before the event – look up those that you need to meet the most. Start the event by talking to them – they might leave early.
- Work the crowd. You never know how the person standing next to you might be useful. Or how you might help that person. Don’t wait, move around. Start talking to people for whatever reason – they are all there to talk to you anyway. That’s the sole purpose of those events.
- Get tailored information. When talking to someone don’t hesitate to steer the conversation in the direction that is important to you. For instance if you have a product for community managers ask people, how they manage communities of their companies/products. You have the right to be interested. If you’re not, you should switch the product you sell
- Ask for leads. The person you’re talking to might not be the best contact in this company for you. But chances are (rather big) that he/she can advise you and introduce you to the right people. You’ll be surprised how eagerly people will help you. Also ask, who else should you talk to at the party, or in this person’s network.
- Give back. ALWAYS think of the ways you can contribute to other person’s business or situation. It might be by referring a business or service that might be beneficial or referring a contact/customer that might need the person’s services or products. Give, even if you didn’t get anything out of interaction – referring people makes your network stronger (if relationships are beneficial for both parties of course).
- Exchange cards/contact info. This is an important moment, because you need to be able to get back to the person. As obvious as it sounds, sometimes we don’t feel comfortable about asking for a card, especially if the other person is of a ‘higher status’ then we think we are. Be serious about it, give the card with proper emphasis and make it obvious that you expect one in return. If the other person is hesitant, ask for the card – usually after people have a couple drinks they forget about simple things like returning the courtesy.
- Follow up. No later than next day: send a ‘thank you’ e-mail, make introductions you promised (be sure both parties want them), deliver information you think will be useful to the person. To finish, store the information in a networking service like LinkedIn or Xing.
- Add your own step in growing networks – in the comments section please
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