She had claimed the prize of 12 current clients and was now working toward a goal of 30. I asked this highly motivated small business owner the one question every successful entrepreneur needs to know cold–What are your top three sources of new business?
Her top three sources all came from personal relationships via business networking. They were:
- A local PR firm
- A local search firm
- A local website design firm.
Nothing surprising here.
Lovingly cultivated personal relationships with businesses that partially overlap your own will form the basis of new referrals. So commit to shifting your thinking and actually doing things for and with the people in your business network. When your “executrix” whips those relationships into place, it will do more good than 500 webinars and 100 white papers combined.
Here are 21 tips for better business networking, to keep your contacts aware and appreciative ever after.
1. Refer a person in your business network for a speaking opportunity. (When it happened to me, I was so very grateful!)
2. Give them a +1 on their Klout score.
3. Make a donation to your contact’s favorite charity, in appreciation for their assistance.
4. Join their Twitter Chat and help build excitement for their brand or cause. (A concise overview of how to find and join a Twitter Chat by @LisaBarone is here .)
5. Invite your contacts to join you at an evening out, perhaps one with learning and mingling. Or, take them out to the ball game, the driving range, or another venue that will enable you to go for the gusto, together.
6. Re-tweet their content, comment on their blog, share or like their stuff.
7. Send a thank you gift or card that shows thought. Even if you have said it in the past, the currency of business relationships is the relationship itself. Build it with real concern.
8. Suggest connections and introduce them. It has been said that you should never eat alone, so why go for doubles when you can triangulate with a new face?
9. Offer to interview them for your blog post, on a podcast, or for an article that you save and upload to a Scribd, where anyone can become a published author.
10. Spontaneously write them a recommendation on LinkedIn.
11. Add your review of their service to TripAdvisor/Yelp or similar online review site.
12. Show up at their event. Peeps work hard to create valuable business networking events, and just turning out helps them look successful (and in many cases, provides you with the opportunity you seek).
13. Review their stuff on your own site. Mention them (or their firm) by name and offer a backlink. (And, by the way, you should always have a Google Alert set to your name and your brand, so you can know immediately when you are being mentioned.)
14. Spend some of your time at the table they need to staff or the booth they are working at a trade show, so they can roam and enjoy a break.
15. Offer up your workplace space after hours. Especially in cities, if you work at a law firm or brokerage, those conference rooms that are empty in the evening could be gold for a networking group.
16. Send a candidate suggestion to someone who you know seeks talent.
17. Refer a paying customer, or refer a contact to a potential third-party alliance partner.
18. Volunteer your time and expertise for a project with specific goals, a project that helps them in their work.
19. Recommend your contact or their firm for an award in their industry. Or, make up an award and recognize a whole bunch of your contacts.
20. Answer their question online (the news feed of Facebook, the Q&A of a closed group,etc.), or send them what they need. I once heard about a relatively obscure blogger who followed the tweets of a big honcho. When he advised that he needed some inspiration, the blogger was quick on the draw and printed up a set of silk-screened T-shirts with cool designs. When the follower sent it over, he made a connection for life.
21. Send useful articles.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, Gamma Man.
Do you have other fail-proof ways to build your business network? Let’s hear them in the comments.
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