Plan to include more time to network with fellow professionals and potential clients this year. The more you network, the more connections you will have and the stronger those connections will be for your business.
Business may be "busier" than ever, but don't allow yourself to be trapped indefinitely in your office. Get out from behind your desk and talk to managers, employees, fellow professionals, existing clients, and new clients. Resolve to expand your business and social circles in the upcoming year by including regular networking time in your schedule.
Join a group or two
Visit a few local networking and industry groups, mingle with the members, and choose a group that best suits you and best meets your needs. Some groups meet on a weekly or monthly basis while others may have fewer meetings in a year. Some are more lead-oriented and may place a limit on the amount of members who can represent one field. Groups such as this can offer the opportunity to be the only business provider in your industry, but you should also be prepared to spend time generating leads for others in your group. Some are regional and may include a variety of fields, but place no limits on the number of members. You may have some competition in the room, but there is likely to be a deeper pool of potential clients and there may be more scheduled time to network. Joining an industry group can also help build business. You may get invaluable advice from networking with others in your industry or combine forces with another professional to land a larger joint project, branch out in a new direction, or put pressure on common suppliers for better service or lower costs.
Attend a conference
Conferences can be a great way to make new business contacts across the country and across the globe. Attend a conference to pick up some new skills or learn about current trends in your industry, but also plan to make a few new contacts with other attendees while you're there, and then continue that contact via eMail, telephone, or over a cup of coffee.
Network in social settings
Networking can be fun. don't limit yourself to networking groups and conferences. Network while you go to the gym, stand in line at the grocery store, attend a holiday or cocktail party, or pursue a hobby or activity you enjoy. You never know where your next lead will come from, so expand your networking beyond people you know or plan to get to know and make an effort to get to know the person who happens to be in front of you.
Set aside a few minutes a day to strengthen and expand your network
A few minutes a day is all it takes to stay in touch with the people in your database. Executives who spend a few minutes a day calling or eMailing colleagues, vendors, and other business associates have an advantage. Networking can provide business leads, and keep informed about current trends. It's also a great method to fill a vacancy in your company or help out your associates.
There are different types of networking approaches that can be used with great results. There is in-person networking (which has been discussed above) and online networking. Online networking works differently than in-person networking; however, the desired results are the same. You can establish and maintain a strong relationship with other people with whom you are connected online and you will see that the relationship is just as valuable and just as solid as relationships that you have face to face. Online networking gives you the advantage of interacting with people in a much broader geographic area (virtually anywhere in the world) and there can be many advantages to having relationships with people in other countries. The broader your scope, the better your chances at a successful business.
Networking connections are critical to the success of your business. You need to take advantage of online and in-person networking and to use all opportunities to build and strengthen relationships that are mutually beneficial.