The covid pandemic may have set us apart, but it didn't break our desire for social contact. In the last couple of years, people and organizations turned to the digital to interact and keep a social routine. Business networking also leaned more toward digital solutions like social media platforms and webinars. Despite this change, there are some rules to establishing meaningful business connections that never change.
What is business networking?
Business networking is much more than shaking hands and collecting cards. Networking is about exchanging information and ideas with people with the same profession or similar interests in an informal social setting. In a nutshell, networking is about sharing a common passion.
Meeting people with similar interests can benefit you in many ways. Maintaining a habit of networking can help you:
- Expand your circle of acquaintances
- Find out job opportunities
- Be aware of news and trends in your field
- Develop relationships with people that may do business with in the future
The 4 Rules of Business Networking
Now that we have a glimpse of what is networking, let's see a set of rules that keep relevant regardless of where and when you do networking.
1. Be strategic and focused
Networking for business growth is like sowing the seeds for long-term networking success. Whether it is online or hybrid, networking is a slow game. Moreover, not every new acquaintance will help move your business forward. That is why it is so important to be selective. After all, you have control over whom you meet, where you meet them, and how you develop and leverage relationships for mutual benefit.
Tips: make a list of chats, conferences, and social events you think you will meet similar-minded people around the globe. After establishing the contact, nurture your new connection with relevant information and genuine interest.
2. Be proactive
Whether you are beginning a new business or having a consolidated company, get time to do networking every week. To accomplish this goal, it helps to define specific actions each week. So make a plan, focus, and be consistent. When you understand what is and isn't working in your approach, you can pivot to find avenues of opportunity to grow your network.
Tip: Start with a simple plan. For example, join a social platform, share once a week content about themes you master, and comment on posts on social media of people who share a common interest with you. Define some basic metrics and, after a while, evaluate your efforts.
3. Be clear on your networking purpose
Successful networking depends on transparency. Building a meaningful bond is about a healthy exchange of ideas and information, not an asymmetrical relationship.
So, to maximize the success of your relationships, set the rules of engagement and clarify why you are reaching a new acquaintance.
Tip: if you are reaching someone because you admire his work, say it. If you are looking for a mentor, say it. This level of honesty makes you trustworthy and establishes what is expected from the relationship.
4. Be present
Networking is not just about receiving. It is also about giving. Giving advice, giving a portion of your time to brainstorm a new idea, giving your opinion about a project. That proximity fosters rapport and turns you into a reliable person in your network.
One last advice: don't ghost the requests of your network. It's great to have time to answer your network, but when it is impossible to reply timely, inform you can't help now but will try as soon as possible. Don't forget the golden rule: treat your network the way you like to be treated.