Whether you’re setting out to run your own business, looking to stay in touch with the pulse and people in your industry, or just plain looking for a job, networking has to be on your agenda. It has to be at the top of your agenda.
How do you get work?
As a business owner the question I get asked the most by friends and interested entrepreneurs: “How do you get your clients?” That’s got to be the hottest question there is – how do you get work? Schoening Digital is just turning that page in our age when our clients are coming back for more and sharing their positive experience with their peers and partners. While referral marketing and direct marketing are going to pick up, my answer is: we get our work from our networking. In other words, our pipeline growth boils down to how much coffee we’re consuming with friendly strangers.
The first rule in building a company is building a network
In a recent lecture by Toby Stuart, Faculty Director of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, Toby touted how important your network is in growing a successful start-up. “The first rule in building a company is building a network,” he says. And “your social network,” he said, “emerges from the industry you choose.” Choose one and dive in.
9 Networking Tips to Skyrocket your Network:
1. Seek out people who want to help you
At a stand-still in terms of where to start? Here are some people in your life who can’t help but want to help you. Ask them for 2 connections each and you won’t have breathing room on your calendar for months. Remember to be specific about how they can help you – what type of people they should connect you with. This list is inspired by Don Asher’s list of People Who Want to Help You (from his book, The Overnight Resume):
- Every parent or close relative
- Every friend you ever had
- Every friend of every friend you ever had
- Every alumni of your school(s)
- Every former co-worker
- Every leader or congregant member of your church, synagogue, temple
- Every coach and member of every social, academic, or professional club you know of
- Everybody you helped out
- … The list goes on
And Don’s last item:
- Start over and talk to them all again.
2. Be yourself.
There’s no reason to pretend you’re something you’re not. If you can make a personal connection, that is way more valuable than making a professional connection. It will open doors you’ll never expect to open. Be authentic. A now-friend and I met at the 2013 Seattle Interactive Conference and bonded over noodles between sessions. I got caught up in her story about her pre-mature twins. 3 months and 3 twins-focused coffee dates later, she sent us what’s now a very important client relationship.
3. Be on top of it. Be Organized.
I keep track of every person with whom I exchange business cards and every new person with whom I’ve emailed (the former should catalyze the latter). I started my Network spreadsheet on Schoening Digital’s inception date, June 12, 2012, hit 500 people this last June, 2014, and am still counting. My biggest asset is my network, and I have it at my fingertips. Every row includes a cell dedicated to the person who connected us, which means I can tell you exactly who has connected me to the most people, or exactly who has brought us the most business. It’s also from this list that we determine who to touch-base with during the holidays. Interested in receiving a stunning holiday card in your mailbox this year? That’s right, it’s paper. Check out last year’s card below, and let me know!
4. Hustle. Go far and wide.
I had a meeting with a woman-owned PR Firm, Revel Creative Group on the East side in the Seattle area, referred to me by a mentor/friend of mine, Marie. Founders Cynarah and Amalia asked me how I know Marie. I felt I knew Marie quite well at this point but could not answer their question. I had completely forgotten – the connection had so many legs to it. They said, “You know her through your own hustle. That’s awesome.”
5. Know what you want, how somebody might be able to help you.
Show up to a coffee conversation with a clear takeaway for the other person to digest. What would be most helpful for you at this point? To have 2 more coffee dates with developers? To get their feedback on a new product idea? To learn about new networking events you should be attending? Be specific. That will make your name come to mind much faster when your new friend runs into his next developer, or attends a new event that he might not have thought of during the conversation itself.
Guy Kawasaki, in his book Enchantment, advises that in every email you should “Ask for something concrete.” He goes on to say that if you have someone’s interest and attention, do something with it. This should transcend emails and manifest itself in your networking conversations.
6. Exchange business cards. Follow-up and set up a coffee meeting.
Offer to meet them wherever is most convenient for them. Double confirm before the meeting. Be happy to see them. Don’t talk the whole time. Be interested in how you can help them.
7. Thank them for their time.
Always, always, write to say ‘Thank you’. Dare I say it – consider handwriting something? It blows people away, and if the connection was special enough, wouldn’t that be something you’d want? One of my first coffees as Founder of Schoening Digital was with one of Seattle’s top serial entrepreneurs. He sent me an email the second he got my handwritten letter telling me how much he appreciated it and how it inspired him to want to write a few himself. Do I consistently follow this piece of advice? No way! But it certainly is a way to make an impression.
8. Put a note on your calendar to reach out 2 – 3 months later. Have another coffee.
If you enjoyed the coffee and you found that the relationship could be mutually helpful, meet again. One coffee meeting makes you feel accomplished as a networker. A second coffee meeting turns your city into a small world. Try it, and soon people will be asking you why you know so many people at your industry networking events.
9. Look for ways to help people in return.
Stumbled upon an article related to something your new acquaintance mentioned? Send it to her. Did she come to mind when you saw a poster for a music event? Even if it has nothing to do with her, let her know she came to mind. Share your contacts and she’ll share hers.
Besides being surprised by how effective these 9 networking tips are in building a community, I’m most surprised by how willing people are to help. You just have to remember to ask, and of course, help the next person who asks you.