How often do you network with other entrepreneurs?
If your answer is anything other than “regularly,” you need to change that ASAP.
Networking with other entrepreneurs can make all the difference – and it’s really not that difficult to do if you appreciate the following points, which we’ve underscored with quotes from famous businesspeople.
Understand Where Your Network Is
Before we jump into the advice, we want to make sure you understand this important point.
One of the keys to good marketing is understanding your market well enough to know where you can find potential customers.
For example, if you know your customers all read the same online publication, you’ll want to place ads there or even get published on that site to build your authority.
The same thing goes for your network. Consider the people in and around your industry with whom you want to network. Where are they?
This might mean targeting certain websites. It definitely means social media. You should also look into local networking events you can attend for face-to-face introductions.
With this in mind, let’s now look at expert advice on how to network with other entrepreneurs.
Get Started Today
“Don’t wait until you desperately need a social network to begin developing one.” –Frank Sonnenberg
Someday, having a professional network of fellow entrepreneurs is going to make all the difference. One of them will introduce you to a major investor or help you understand your market better.
You might even be in a full-blown crisis when you turn to your network for help at the last minute.
That’s why you need to begin building this network right away. An effective network isn’t something that is built overnight. You’re not just forming one relationship. You’re forming dozens, possibly more.
Build a Network of Friends
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” –Dale Carnegie
Just because it’s a professional network doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly with your fellow entrepreneurs. In fact, it’s a requirement in order to be successful.
Again, social media is great for this. You can reach out to members of your network to talk about all kinds of topics and learn a bit about their personal interests.
When you see them at networking events or other public places, don’t just talk business. Ask them how they’ve been and treat them like a friend.
Friends will always go the extra mile for each other. Of course, you’ll have to be prepared to do the same for your fellow entrepreneurs. However, these types of bonds will be far more beneficial than those that are based solely on professional self-interest.
Learn How to Market You, Inc.
“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.” –Christine Comaford-Lynch
At some point, every entrepreneur has to learn a bit of marketing. No matter what your business idea entails, you’ll need to know how to put it in front of other people, convey its benefits, and gain their interest.
When it comes to networking, you’ll need to learn to market yourself.
What do you have to offer another entrepreneur? Why would they want to connect with you? How can you get this across to them in a tactful, effective way?
Again, social media can be very helpful for this. If someone reviews your profile and sees that you’re clearly an entrepreneur on the rise, they’ll immediately understand you’re someone worth connecting with.
Still, learn how to communicate this in person. While you don’t want to only ever talk about yourself, some amount of self-marketing is a requirement for building a robust network of entrepreneurs.
You Will Be Judged Before Making a Connection
“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room – remember that. And more importantly, let’s discover why!” –Chris Drucker
If you want a social media page that will help build a reliable network, you should deliberately think about everything you share.
People who don’t already know you will judge you based on the content you put out there.
If you’re constantly talking about your industry and giving helpful advice, that’s what people will associate with you.
On the other hand, if you’re all over the place with your content, people will have a hard time deciding if you’re someone who belongs in their professional network.
This advice holds true in other ways, too.
People will judge you based on what they hear and whom you already have in your network. Keep this in mind as you build a public profile. It should be one that makes a compelling first impression before you ever actually meet someone.
Professional Networks Are About Quality, Not Quantity
“Many business people end up being relationship rich, and referral poor.” –Timothy M. Houston
Anyone can amass what looks like an impressive network of entrepreneurs. Spend a few hours sending out LinkedIn invites and you’ll probably have one by the end of the week.
The problem is that literally none of those people will come to your aid when you need them. You’ll be lucky if they answer one of your emails.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to get started right now because there’s a lot of work to do. You need to make that initial connection and then prove to the person why you’re worth being part of their network.
A network of just five entrepreneurs who you regularly have lunch with, talk to through email, or even share stuff with on social media will be a 100x more effective than an army of people who aren’t even sure who you are.
Networking is one of those activities that doesn’t come with an objective ROI. Combine that with the fact that most people don’t want to leave their comfort zones, and it’s understandable why so many don’t make networking a priority.
This is just one more reason why you need to get great at it. A strong network of other entrepreneurs is an incomparable advantage. Use the above advice to begin building yours right away – and you may someday find it was the deciding factor that made your entrepreneurial dreams possible.