If you are a new entrepreneur looking for networking tips, there is plenty of advice out there to choose from. But what if you are really not good at networking, or you just don’t like it, period? To be honest, the same qualities that can make some people good at building their own business can make it difficult for them to seek out and solidify lasting professional relationships.
Yet, if you are seriously trying to start up your own business, then you have to network on some level or you won’t get very far. So, how can you go about building connections with other movers and shakers while not moving so far from your comfort zone?
Here are four networking tips for entrepreneurs who don’t enjoy networking:
Offer to do a service for free. If you really would like the fast track to connecting with other influencers and entrepreneurs, then this is it. Offer to do them a valuable service for free with no strings attached. A good example of this is in action is Derek Halpern from Social Triggers. After setting up his now outrageously popular website, Derek contacted some of the biggest names on the web and offered to do a live critique of their websites. Many people “bit,” and the resulting publicity that he received as well as the connections he built successfully catapulted his business to the top in a very short amount of time.
Barter. Reaching out to other entrepreneurs is crucial, particularly when your business is just getting off the ground. It’s a two-way street, and most of the time you may be well-received! But at the same time, it may not feel so comfortable blatantly asking for help or recognition. If you go in, however, offering something of value in exchange for that help or recognition, then it can change the whole dynamic.
One example of this would be writing up an informative post or review on your blog that positively mentions one or more people you would like to connect to, working hard to promote this content, and then asking the people you referenced if they would also share it with their social circles. You benefit from the added exposure and open the door to a further relationship, and they get to show their followers another example of their authority within the niche. And, here’s an off-line example: if another small business owner has an empty storefront that would be perfect for your next event, ask about it! Maybe you could offer this person a percentage of sales generated. Some of the best business partnerships come from these types of arrangements.
Always be ready… Sometimes networking just happens. Networking opportunities don’t always happen in hotel ballrooms complete with name tags. So if you tend to run away from these kinds of events like the plague, there still may be hope for you. As an entrepreneur, you never know when you’re going to meet someone at a restaurant, a ball game, or even at the gym who may be valuable to you professionally. When this happens, let it happen. Always, always have a stack of business cards on hand or an electronic equivalent, and keep your website looking polished at all times. Nothing kills a fruitful networking conversation faster than, “Well, um, I’ll have to get back to you.”
Don’t forget the follow-up. Many entrepreneurs over-look the importance of a good follow-up. If you do any of the networking tips above, then don’t forget to follow up on the experience with an email, a note, or even a Twitter shout-out. Other entrepreneurs notice these gestures more than almost anyone. Make someone feel like you believe their time is valuable, and they’ll give you more of it. Make them feel brushed off, even by accident, and chances are they may never forget it.
If you are an entrepreneur, then successfully networking with others is vital to your own success. Even if you happen to not enjoy networking or networking events, there are still many things that you can do to change the dynamic, and make the kinds of connections you need to succeed.
Ryan Currie is a product manager at BizShark.com, with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development. In addition to web related businesses, he also enjoys the latest news and information on emerging technologies and open source projects.