When you’re just starting in your field, you have a lot of passion and drive ready to go somewhere. The challenge is in finding people willing to work past your inexperience or lack of references.
That’s where developing a professional network comes into play.
Networking is an art that balances finesse, social skills, and professionalism. As you network, you build symbiotic relationships. In them, others appreciate and use your abilities, and you respect and value theirs.
Because of the intricacies involved in dealing with other people and their businesses, networking requires careful handling. Don’t rush into building your professional connections.
First, learn these seven secrets to mastering the art of the social dance of networking.
1. Start With Building Yourself Up First
You’re going to be nervous, but when you are confident in what you bring to the table — it’s easier to approach people.
Take as much time as necessary before you start networking to ensure you look and sound professional. Think about the average interaction with a potential client.
What would it involve?
Then, make sure every process in that chain is ready to go, like:
- your business cards
- the when you meet a new prospect
- your web page and shopping cart features (if applicable)
- each social media platform you are using for your business is professional and ready to follow up any engagement
Try to reel in your excitement at starting your business until every step of you and your clients’ interactions is ready. In the best-case scenario, you’ll net so much work right away, you won’t have time to tweak your system!
2. Stick With Local Referrals
Your business may be able to take things to a long-distance level, but starting with your local referrals helps build a base portfolio.
Focus your first networking attempts in your county. Many communities have a Chamber of Commerce to promote local businesses.
Through these connections, you can reach out to other professionals to introduce yourself. These narrow avenues can open up a wide range of referrals.
It’s a win/win experience, too. As you network, you’ll come across other local businesses that could use your support and referrals.
3. Continue Your Education
Learning is a lifetime endeavor, especially with how quickly technology changes today. No matter what business you’re in, you can always use more knowledge.
You may think that you can call it quits once you promote yourself as an expert in your industry. But every field requires continuing education. Through academic or self-learning, you can stay ahead of the competition.
Integrated subject areas like accounting, tax laws, and SEO marketing are ever-changing. Keeping up with their trends is necessary for a business owner. If nothing else, these are great opportunities for further education.
Look for social ways to continue learning what’s going on in your industry and those connected to it. Through these events, you can develop an extensive network of other professionals.
4. Set Yourself Apart from the Crowd
One of the first things you may hear as a new entrepreneur is to find your niche. A niche is a specialized aspect of business that very few people offer. It sets you apart from your competition.
Research competitors in your area and online if you’re moving into the e-commerce market.
What does your competition look like? What do they offer to attract business to them?
For some businesses, it’s lower prices. For others, it’s same-day turnaround or free shipping. It all depends on your industry and services offered.
Now that you’ve done the in-depth research, you can answer those critical questions.
What’s your niche? What do you have to offer your clients that no one else in your industry does?
Use that lever to look different than the others in your field and make yourself unforgettable.
5. Focus on the Follow-Up
Getting your business card in someone else’s hands isn’t the end of your networking job. In fact, it’s just the beginning!
Design a follow-up plan that will enable you to keep connected to that person easily. Store their contact information in a . Add detailed notes about the business and personal information you learned.
Schedule calendar notifications to remind you to touch base with them. Consistency is essential to building trust.
The trick is to continue to grow that relationship through follow-up. Showing you are sticking around is the key to a reliable networking relationship.
6. Learn Social Skills
Depending on how and where you grew up, you might think social skills are the standard way to act. While they should be, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that not everyone has these basic mannerisms.
Some industries are more cutthroat than others. You may meet people who see kindness as a weakness, but overall, manners will get you a long way in the business of networking.
If you are kind and polite, while still asserting yourself as a person of respect, you’ll stand out just because of that character trait.
This isn’t a trait that everyone has, but you can learn. To figure out how to listen and read others, study It will be time well spent that will pay off in the future!
7. Invest in Marketing Strategies
As someone just starting out, you probably don’t have a large budget for marketing. The good thing is it’s not necessary to spend thousands on billboards and newspaper ads anymore.
Much of today’s marketing strategies in networking don’t cost much if anything. Learn how to use SEO techniques and social media to the best of your ability.
Start with these basics to get your name out there:
- Use a
- Research the main keywords in your industry and use them
- Optimize your site for loading and Google’s algorithm
- Regularly add relevant content
- Use reputable internal and external links
- Build a stable social media network
By using your business’s web page as your marketing platform, you can focus on one area until it’s as great as it can be. Then, move on to the next avenue when you’re ready.
Building a professional network won’t happen overnight. And if you’re not careful, you can quickly lose what progress you’ve made.
Networking requires hard work, follow-up, and relationship building. When you master these seven secrets, you’ll be on your way to creating a strong community of other professionals!
Working with Alliance Residential at , Caitlin Sinclair has more than five years of experience in the multifamily industry. In her free time, you will find her enjoying life on the Lake and spending time with friends.