In the context of entrepreneurship, networking means developing mutually beneficial business relationships. People looking to advance their career often hear advice about the benefits of networking. But we don’t hear much about how exactly we should network and what are the most effective networking methods. The truth is, what most people consider as networking isn’t really doing anything to help them grow their business.
The following is a system I use to network effectively and efficiently. I use this system to consistently bring in new clients for my business and it works very well. This system is not necessarily universal, but can easily be modified to fit your business and industry.
Networking starts with making a list of prospects. I currently have a list of about 200 social entrepreneurship companies and contact names that I collected through Google search, and this constitutes my networking prospect base. I have a system where I contact 10 people a week from this list. My preferred method of contacting them is through email, because that’s the easiest way for me to reach them. Depending on your business and industry, email may or may not be the best way to start a conversation with someone. It is easier to make a deal and get to know someone through face to face or Skype interaction, and I intend for my emails to escalate to face to face interaction. For initial contact though, I use email since it’s an easy starting point.
I use an email template which makes up the content of my 10 emails a week. I do not simply copy and paste and then spray out emails. Although I use a template, I do a fair about of customization for each email, so each person feels understood and listened to. The template looks something like this:
—Introduce myself and what I do.
—Talk about what I like about their organization.
—Talk about my business and history.
—Offer to help them out.
I sometimes attach my resume at the end of my emails, although it’s not necessary to do this. The goal of these emails is to create a mutually beneficial business relationship where we both discover how we could help each other out. The most obvious example of a mutually beneficial relationship is the relationship of client and server, where the client provides money to the server, and the server provides a service. But networking can also lead to partnership, or simply a breakthrough conversation. On average, I tend to hear back from about 3 out of 10 of these prospects, and 1 or 2 of those turns to a face to face or Skype meeting where we discuss ways we can help each other in detail.
In order to network effectively, we should have a clear networking system and know what we are looking for out of networking. The system is easy and works effectively (make a list of prospects and email 10 a week). You can use my system as a template and modify it to fit your business needs and preferences.