The coronavirus pandemic has created a challenging environment for many entrepreneurs. More than ever before, people are relying on their professional networks to expand or simply keep their businesses afloat until the global situation improves.
Much of entrepreneurship depends on developing a strong, supportive network. Entrepreneurs are wise to seek out mentors who can help them with developing their business, as well as peers they could potentially partner with down the road.
Guidance and partnership can be extremely important during uncertain times—like a pandemic—so entrepreneurs must work on keeping in touch with colleagues and peers. Some tips to keep in mind when you are trying to grow your network include:
1. Capitalize on existing relationships.
As an entrepreneur, you have likely formed some relationships with fellow professionals. If you want to expand that circle, the best way is to leverage these existing relationships to meet new people. The people you might be overlooking, however, are your employees.
The members of your team are worth getting to know, as they likely know other individuals who can serve as a strategic contact for your company. Likewise, friends and family members may know people who would be good to bring into your circle. You should also never hesitate to reach out to contacts you lost track of over the years. As long as no bridges were burnt, these individuals will likely be happy to hear about new projects.
2. Make use of social media.
For many entrepreneurs, social media may not seem like the best place to expand their professional network. However, social media can be a very helpful tool as long as you are strategic in your approach. For instance, Twitter is often the best place to engage with industry influencers, whereas LinkedIn is the best tool for making straightforward business connections. Both of these networks, as well as several others, can play an important role in building new relationships. Simple engagement remains a great way to expand your network. You can even use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to post your insights to multiple platforms at once.
3. Offer help to others.
Some people approach networking from the position of asking what other people can do for them. A better approach is to show individuals what you have to offer. By offering help right off the bat, you can build good will and create the foundation for a lasting relationship. In turn, the person who received great advice or assistance from you will be more eager to step up in the future or to connect you with someone who can help. One way to do this is to become a key industry resource on social media.
4. Seek out networking events.
A trap that entrepreneurs can sometimes fall into is trying to network completely from the office. Since being in the office is likely not possible these days anyway, you must rely on other networking opportunities, most of which will likely be virtual for the foreseeable future.
For instance, you can check out a variety of different types of events. Some networking events are based on industry and shaped around larger conferences, while others are based on geography, such as an event for small business owners in your region. You can learn a lot from another business owner who is local but not necessarily in the same industry.
5. Give people acknowledgment.
Many successful entrepreneurs spend a lot of time reading articles and perusing what other people have to say about business or their particular industry. One of the oldest networking strategies in the book is simply taking the time to acknowledge a writer’s work, either through direct communication or a tagged social media post. Go beyond a bland affirmation about the article, and identify what exactly was so valuable to you, especially on a public social media post. Doing this helps drive name recognition among influencers while allowing you to share some important insights and knowledge. Also, the feedback is helpful for writers who want to know more about what their audience finds interesting.
6. Follow up with connections.
Between conferences and social media engagement, people can make connections quite easily these days. However, not all of these connections will expand your network. The key to making someone part of your network is to follow up on the interaction. Networking is all about developing relationships, not collecting contact information.
A couple of days after an initial interaction, follow up with a quick note about a recommendation or an unanswered question. Even just reaching out to say it was nice to meet them can open the door for continued engagement and the development of a meaningful relationship. Be strategic about how you follow up, though, since not everyone will check social media messages. Often, a text, e-mail, or even a phone call is better.