What is networking?
I’m sure it’s a term you hear used quite often these days no matter what your profession is. But what does it mean exactly and how does it affect what you do?
By definition, networking is the process of interacting with people to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
Does that sound familiar? There’s a good chance that you’ve done some sort of networking in the past whether you knew you were doing it or not. But we here at DecoNetwork want you to take full advantage of networking and the major benefits that come with it.
If done correctly, networking can unlock anything and everything that has to do with both your professional career and social life. There are many ways to tackle networking and we’ve comprised a list of topics to get you pointed in the right direction.
Tip 1: Meet New People
Meeting new people. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, for some of you who are social butterflies by nature, meeting new people may be easy. But if you’re not too fond of social interaction, this can be challenging.
If you want to be good at networking, you must meet new people.
Have you ever heard someone use the statement, it’s all about who you know? Well, that couldn’t be a more true statement. That applies in all life situations, too and we’ll give you examples.
Let’s say you’re driving down the road and you get a flat tire. You’re wondering to yourself, what am I going to do? Then you remember that one of your neighbors that you met not too long ago works at a car repair shop. You give him a call and he tells you what to do.
That’s a form of networking. You met someone new and they were able to help you out with something all because you met them and created a social contact.
Another example could be in a professional sense. You run a successful printing business in a small town and one of your children plays on the middle school football team. As a result, you meet the head coach and it leads to him asking if your business would supply the team with all the gear they will need for their season.
The beauty of networking is that it can be planned in a sense, or it can happen by accident. But the common ground between both of these involves meeting new people.
We know this might be difficult for some, but go out there and make an effort. Good things will come of it.
Tip 2: Ask Questions
We all know someone that talks too much.
When it comes to networking, you want to avoid being that person. Our second tip is to ask questions. What do we mean by that exactly? Well, it’s rather simple.
If you’re fortunate enough to strike up a conversation with someone that you’ve never met, ask them questions. The object of this interaction is to not be the person who talks way too much. Make the conversation about them. Make that person feel important. You want them to feel like you value what they have to say.
You want them to leave the conversation thinking that you’re someone they wouldn’t mind speaking to again at some point.
If you dominate the conversation with things about yourself, the chances of that person not wanting to speak with you ever again is pretty high. Unless this conversation is some sort of job interview, don’t make it all about yourself.
Tip 3: Befriend Other Local Businesses
This tip is a no-brainer, folks. Chances are there are plenty of other businesses in your area. Sure, some may be spread out, but that shouldn’t stop you from befriending them and building a cordial relationship with them.
Why? Because it can only help you.
If you run a print shop and there is a nice coffee shop right across the street, introduce yourself and start building a relationship with them. You don’t have to become best friends with them, but make an effort to know who they are, what they do, and always offer your help to them if they ever need it.
Imagine if the owner of that coffee shop knows someone that needs shirts printed? If you have taken the time to get to know them and have always been nice and helpful, there is a pretty good chance they will give your business’s name as a reference.
But don’t only look at this newfound relationship as something that will only benefit you. Talk up their business to your customers. Networking is a two-way street. If you want something in return, you have to be ready to return the favor.
Tip 4: Attend Conferences/Trade Shows
A great way to fast-track your networking is to attend conferences and or trade shows depending on your profession.
Attending a conference is a big step, so make sure you have it planned out ahead of time. It will likely cost you some sort of capital to attend and spend the day, but the networking benefits that will come from it are invaluable.
Odds are, the conference you will be attending will bring you together with people of your same field. In doing so, you will be able to interact with your fellow comrades. Even though they’re in the same business, it’s still a good idea to build a working relationship with them.
The conference itinerary might also include classes that you can take to broaden your knowledge and skills.
Attending a trade show offers a lot of the same benefits as a conference. A trade show will get you up to speed on all of the latest and greatest concepts and ideas in your specific field as well as allowing you to interact and network with anyone you so choose.
If you’re looking to learn about the new emerging trends in your field as well as building upon your business contacts, trade shows would be a great avenue for you.
Tip 5: Share your Expertise
The root of this topic is don’t be selfish.
If you’re running a successful business, you should be eager to help others. Share your level of expertise with anyone who wants to hear it and odds are, it will pay off more than you could ever imagine.
Asking someone for information can sometimes be scary. Especially if you don’t have a ton of experience talking to people. So if someone has worked up the nerve to ask you questions about your business, return the favor.
The great part of this topic is that you can do this via the internet. Join Facebook groups and any other sort of platform that has a conglomerate of like-minded people and don’t be afraid to share what you know.
Not only will this help whoever is asking, but it will also serve as a form of brand recognition for your business. If someone sees that John’s T-Shirt shop is taking time out of his day to answer a question on Facebook, that might lead them to check out your Facebook business page or better yet, your website.
Be nice. Share what you know. And if anyone takes the time to ask you a question about your business, give them a thoughtful response.
You never know what that might lead to in the future.
Check out our video version of this article below!