Build a Network of Business Contacts
These days it is all too easy to get caught in the bubble of your own world. You keep everything inside and maintain a tight reign on it all. Well that might make sense in keeping things ordered, but not for building your business network. Building a network for your business involves getting out of your comfort zone. It involves putting yourself out there and building bridges. This will not happen with you stuck in the heart of your zone. Its measure of success is partly just how much farther you are willing to go. Let us talk you through how to build that network and why it is important.
Your Existing Business Network
You will already have a business network no matter how long you have been in business. No man or woman is an island as the famous phrase goes. You will have existing suppliers that you liaise with. Well they are a solid part of your business network. You will have those who supported you establishing your business such as electrical contractors or builders. You have current customers who use your business that are from a variety of backgrounds. You have your own friends and family who are part of your business network. They want to see you succeed and they are no doubt willing to help.
When you think about your business network, start by thinking of all those in your existing network. After all, they know you already and some no doubt will be willing to help you extend further. After all, the more people you know, the more information you have. While your existing business network is OK and has got you to where you are, it can go further. You can utilize your existing business network to move you on. Growing your existing network via existing contacts is one way to achieve this successfully.
Why Bother Expanding Your Network
Why extend your network you might ask. What is it going to give you that you do not have now? Opening up your contacts can bring you a whole host of benefits.
- Get more customers
You might meet someone who is willing to help you get more customers. You might own businesses that are complementary such as a clothes shop and an accessories shop. Therefore, if you are joined up in the same network, you may be able to help each other. There are many ways you could help each other and get more customers.
- Sell Additional Products or Services
Perhaps you do beauty services and they provide a new popular product. They could make some new suggestions that you have not even thought of. They could teach you an additional skill that you could use in your business. Someone seeing things from a new perspective might see opportunities for sale. You might not even know these exist.
- Get Positive Advice
If you have only been in business for a short time, there might be a lot of advice you could get. This is especially true if someone in your network is very experienced. Perhaps they have been in business for a long time. Or perhaps they are more knowledgeable about in your specific area. They could offer you a huge amount and advice and great suggestions. Be open to advice and information and take it all in.
- More Opportunities
Every new person in your network may be able to give you more contacts. Every new contact could be a further opportunity for you to enjoy. They could help you get a new contract or a bigger contract through their own network. They might subcontract to you over time if you build up trust. They might give you access to new suppliers offering better prices or an enhanced product range.
- Higher Status
Some of the people you might be introduced to through your network may hold a lot of power. This could be power in a certain area or in a set group, either locally or on a bigger scale. These kinds of people might bring you easy benefits. Simply by just being known by them or as part of their group it can increase your status. Getting involved with some of these influencers could truly help you.
- Growth in Confidence
The more information you get, the more tweaks and changes you might implement. These could be adding something new or changing the way you do something. It could be a change to what you offer or how you approach a task. You will grow in your own abilities and develop your confidence. This could make a truly positive influence on your business that resonates for a long time.
How Do You Build Contacts?
It is not about how many people you know in your network. You might have a thousand random connections but if they do not benefit you, what is the point? You need connections that are going to benefit you in some way. You could build your network first and foremost by asking for introductions. You could ask your previous and existing happy customers. In addition, family and friends as well as existing suppliers can offer helpful suggestions. You can ask them to make suggestions that they think will be useful. Equally you might explain what you are looking for and see whether anything links.
You might exploit your current connections by joining LinkedIn. Make extra connections this way that might help you out. Look for second level contacts and ask for an introduction. Or just connect if you prefer and see whether they accept. Perhaps you could make introductions for other people to help them too. By reciprocating, you can help people as well as aiding yourself. Making 3rd party connections can be a boost to your own personal network. By growing this, you will be able to gain more knowledge and information for yourself.
Consider attending different groups to see if they might benefit you. You might be able to make some excellent and unexpected connections. You never know where you might find those gold level connections. What about local or national meetings or conferences that happen in your line of business? For example if you have a flower shop and there is a big flower show in the area, do not miss it. Exploit opportunities to meet new people and develop your business. There might be networking breakfasts or lunches in your area run by other local businesses. Try every opportunity to see if it works for you.
The Key to Maximising New Contacts
For the contacts that others make for you, you should deal with these quickly. Contact the person within a few days and add the personal touch with a meeting or phone call. Avoid email for the most important contacts as you remove that personal element. This means when you need to ask some questions, they will probably not know who you are. Email is such an impersonal method of communication. Therefore, if you want a quality relationship you need to put some effort in.
With this new contact you should be able to tell them openly and honestly what you want. Be specific and able to tell people succinctly what this is. Remember that someone is helping you out. Therefore, what you want should not be expensive or time consuming for them. Whatever their limits on this, bend to them. If they find you demanding or rude, they could choose not to help you. They could tell others not to help you too. Try to be as helpful as possible in ensuring they know what the deal is.
With a new contact, if you get the opportunity, ask open-ended questions. If the contact is up for this approach then make it work for you. You never know what they will plan to offer you. They might suggest or offer something you have never even considered. They might end up putting in a lot of effort on your behalf. The result of this could be a great boost to you. It could lead to new suppliers, customers or ideas for products. You could get all this without you having to put any work in at all.
Say Thank You, Always
If you are going to take from someone, they had to put effort in. They had to broker a meeting for you, or dig out a contact. They had to convince someone to speak to you or spend some time linking you up. When someone does this for your benefit, take the time to say thank you. Rather than a quick “thanks” try doing something more significant. Handwrite a letter for them to say thank you. Get them a small gift that should be thoughtful rather than expensive. It should be the personal touch.
This also goes for new contacts that have done something for you. They might have come up with some great new ideas for you. They could have put you onto a new supplier with good prices or higher quality products. Perhaps they have given you an elevated status and driven new customers to you. Maybe they have helped you become more confident in your own abilities. Whatever they did, say thank you the proper way. Give them a token gift that they will enjoy using. Write them a personal thank you message that they will not forget.
Keep Your Network Going
You spent time creating your network. You got all the correct people into your network who can really help you. They offer you so much potential over time. Then you get busy and neglect your network. It will then drift away and not be there for you when you need it. You need to spend as much time maintaining your network as you did creating it. Some contacts will not help you much for quite a few years. It can be a waiting game, but you just need to bide your time. That is an important aspect of your network. Keep in touch so that when you need it, it is there for you.
Put as much time into maintaining your network as you do building new parts. If you are not willing to maintain your network, what was the point of creating it? You should prioritize your key contacts and keep in touch with them. This concept of “key contacts” may vary over time. However, try to make it those who have the most potential to help you. Those who are most willing to help you. These people are the gold stars of your network collection. Make sure you give them the time your relationship needs.
Shake It Up
You should aim to build a network that is bursting with variety. From those who offer a service, to those who are new to business. Perhaps those established in your own area of business to true experts in business. There might be those working in the political sphere and previous customers that value you. Build up great opportunities with all these different people to maximize the benefit to you. By having a range of people in your network, you get the chance to develop your business. You never know what people will be able to offer you. Something hard for you might be easy to someone else and vice versa.
If you begin with the idea of what you can do for others, it is a good start. Decide to be a powerful resource for everyone else. Some people are hesitant to help others generously as they are nervous about being taken advantage of. Be the person who starts this process. Set up a network that gives at least as much as it gets. By offering help freely, you set this up with no expectations. Giving without expecting to get, is a great start to an open network. A network that brings so much careful potential.
Do Your Research
You can go blindly into networking. See what comes your way and make sporadic connections. See who can suggest some good connections to you and follow this. Identify over time what the best connections will be for you. Then it is time to get yourself into the right places to meet those people. Sometimes you might know lots of different people. That does not necessarily mean that you can get introductions to the people you need to meet. On occasion you might need to make these connections with a little thought of your own.
Find out where the movers and shakers go. Is there a group or meeting that they are part of? Is there an annual ball they go to or a charity they support that you can help too? There are a wide variety of ways to develop your network that you can undertake yourself. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. The shy wallflower will find it hard to meet people. Be friendly and outgoing and open to others. Actually, you simply need to make the effort to speak to people. This will help you to build those ever-important relationships.
Have you thought about ways to give back and develop too? What about offering to volunteer with an organisation as a knowledge exchange. Can you offer something to that business or organisation that will help them develop? This might just be over a short period of time rather than a long one. While there, you might learn some valuable lessons. You might meet some people and develop a new branch to your network. Volunteering is giving something without expecting something in return. Do not be surprised if leaders respect that quality in you and want to join your network.
Your business cannot survive with just you alone. You can wish to thrive within the confines of your small world. This just is not practical. You need to take a proactive approach to your own network. It may well be small now, but there are many reasons to build it. From developing yourself to building your customer base, a network is vital. Getting more opportunities will help your business. Even just being given helpful advice to implement will be a big boost to you. Getting more than you bargained for from your network is a fabulous feeling.
If you have the aim to develop your business, then your network is essential. The fact is though, it is not an easy thing to maintain. If you want to make the most of your network, then you have to work at it. You need to develop new contacts within your network. You need to give it plenty of time to reach fruition. Ensure your network knows its value. Show your appreciation by making personal contact that is heartfelt and honest. Give time and thought to your network to keep it going. It might well be something that you need to work at, but it will be worth it. The potential you get from your network is huge. Be a part of a personalized network that meets all your needs. Make your network everything you need with a little hard work.