When starting a new business, it can often feel as if you’re all alone and the weight of the world is on your shoulders. This is especially true if your business is online, but it can feel like that if you’re starting any type of business. But, the truth is, you’re never really alone, you just have to seek out the relationships and go networking to build relations, rather than having them build in for you, like they are in paid employment. Here are some ways to build your business network when you’re just starting your business.
Over the years I’ve met some awesome and interesting people in online forums, gained lots of useful help, made lifelong friends and gained work. It’s easy to start, simply find forums consisting of people you want to start networking with and simply start discussions, answer questions, and be giving and by that I mean give freely of your own advice and help and others will do likewise if you need help. If you find someone you relate to, reach out to them privately, it could be the start of something rewarding.
You can find some really awesome groups sometimes called “inner circles” or mastermind groups which involve working with peers to support and learn from each other. Do a simple search on Facebook for your niche, or use Google Alerts or meet-ups to help you find a group. You can also ask people you already know if they know of any. Sometimes there is a fee to join the group, but consider the fee an investment into your business because being able to seek advice, freely from the people you trust is an invaluable resource.
Chamber of Commerce Events
I’ve been a member and board member of the Swan Chamber of Commerce for a lot of years now and I would advise anyone in business to join. Your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start trying to find networking events to attend. In most cases you can go to them for an added fee as a non-member before choosing to join. Look for “after hours” events to test out the organization to help you determine if it’s right for you and your business goals and get involved, the business fellowship is amazing.
If your business is involved in a specific field, or niche, look up any associated associations online. There are associations for almost any type of business under the sun, and there is likely one for you. It doesn’t matter what type of niche you’re in; you can usually find something. Check out the quality of the organization before joining to ensure it aligns with your values and goals.
Focused Business Events
Starting with a small, focused business event that is limited to just a few people can be helpful in getting your feet wet with larger networking events. Many smaller organizations put on business retreats that are very helpful for people who are nervous about larger events.
This is a great way to find local people who want to connect with people like you. If you don’t see something that fits your business, why not start your own informal Meetup event? You only need locations that will accommodate your needs and a good idea to attract people.
Business networking online and offline can be accomplished through the connections you make on LinkedIn, if you’re strategic about who you connect with. Don’t connect with those whom you cannot offer anything and who can’t offer you anything. Stay focused, and remember; “quality over quantity”.
Networking with Blog Commenters
If you’ve written a compelling blog post that gets comments that make you curious about the person, check out who made the comments and try to connect with them on social media. Once you have established a relationship, you can reach out to them for other ideas, events, and even joint venture partnerships.
Newsletter/Email List Sign-Ups
People who sign up for your email list or newsletter are prime candidates for networking. Plan a webinar, or even an in-person event, and invite your list members to it. Be sure to have an overall goal and theme for the event, whether online or offline.
Social Media Connections
Anyone you connect with on social media can be a prime candidate for more networking. Just make your networking goal oriented and focus on the quality of your connections and don’t just connect with anyone. Nothing is worse than getting those automatic, canned email responses from every person you follow or connect with. Don’t do that. Instead, take the time to get to know the person before reaching out and then you’ll really make connections.
Creating a working network of contacts that can help you, requires that you, not only connect in these many different ways, but also that you follow up with your connections in a way that makes sense. Just because someone “likes”, “follows” “connects” or even speaks to you at an event doesn’t make them a real part of your network. Following up and build a relationship with them. Take these connections and turn them into a true network and you into a networking master simply by reaching out to them, and answering the call to help them when asked too, that’s the secret to give rather than to take.