For any business out there, networking is amongst the most effective marketing channel. Online networking alone, through social media and social networking sites, can offer business owners like you a huge opportunity to connect to a large chunk of your target audience. But is it enough to just make connections and grow your network?
Why you should stop networking and focus more on building relationships
The goal of networking is to build strong business relationships, not to meet as many people as possible.
The number of people on your contact list won’t mean that much for your business if you don’t make an effort to build a relationship with them. They’ll remain just a ‘list of contacts’ until you make ways to convert them to leads who can potentially buy your products or use your services.
Most women entrepreneurs are good at expanding their networks, but only those who take time to nurture their connections can maximize the true power of networking.
Here are some tips on how you can engage people on your “contact list” and, ultimately, build strong and meaningful professional relationships with them:
1. Reach out. Remember networking is more than just collecting business cards from social events or clicking the ‘Add Friend’ button on social networking sites, it’s about connecting and staying connected for a very long time.
For your connection on social networking websites, engage them in a discussion by posting interesting status updates and images or by commenting on their posts or status updates.
For other connections in your network you’ve actually meet once or twice, a simple holiday post card mailed to them can be a start of a long-lasting relationship.
2. Connect them. If you think that introducing two people in your network can be professionally beneficial to both of them, then take the initiative to introduce them to each other.
That is, if you have a friend looking for a professional training coach and you know someone in your network who works as a coach, you can then introduce them. This will not only earn you referral points, this will also create a ripple effect that can benefit your business – it’s highly possible they’ll start referring people from their network to you.
3. Do everything in moderation. Don’t bombard them with updates. Let them breathe.
Overdoing your ‘reaching-out’ efforts can be just as bad as not making any actual reaching out at all. It’ll make the people from your network shy away from you. If you flood their inbox with emails or their news feeds with status updates, chances are you’ll get unfriend-ed or they might unsubscribe. Again, do everything in moderation.
Networking is an ongoing process of building meaningful and long-lasting relationships; it does not end in making connections. In fact, connecting is just the first step.