How to Make Friends and Grow Your Business
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Do you remember what it felt like when you started your first day of school? You walked into a room of strangers and by the end of the day you had friends you couldn’t wait to see again the next day right? Well, networking can be like that. When you connect with people simply for the benefit of making a new friend you get the most out of your networking. But, be careful that you’re not only staying with your ‘friends’ but going outside the circle to expand your horizons.
Let’s start with a few things to consider when networking in person.
Offline (aka. In The Real World)
Networking should always be about making new friends. Think about it, when you meet someone and they begin to spout out what they do and how it can help you, does that incline you to want to work with them? I dare say it makes you cringe, look for the nearest exit and hope to never have to connect with them again. That’s not how networking should work. Yes, take your business cards with you wherever you go, but don’t shove them in people’s faces. Introduce yourself in the spirit of genuinely making a friend. Your connections will go a lot smoother. Be genuinely interested in the other person.
Ask Irrelevant Questions
Yes, I said irrelevant, I wanted to say irreverent, but that could take us to places we dare not go, so let’s just be irrelevant. Basically, don’t ask what a person does, everyone else is asking and you’ll likely get a canned response. Instead, ask about where they live, or how they got to the venue, or do they like the food? Start with a statement then ask about them. For example you could say:
“It took me almost 45 minutes to get here and I only live 4 miles away, can you believe it? What about you, how long did it take you to get here?”
What this does is help you both relax into a non-threatening conversation where you can just express yourselves. Being irrelevant is one way to easily start conversations and make it about the other person while you simply listen and prompt.
Exchange Business Cards
After all the irrelevant conversations, casually give your conversation partner your card as you close. There’s no reason to get into a long drawn out discussion about what you do, just say “I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, let’s connect beyond this place” or something that leaves the door open and opportunity for more connection. Trust me, not having to spout the “elevator pitch” will be a welcome deviation. Make sure to ask for a card in return so you can later touch base and set a time for coffee or drinks. Moving the conversation away from the “networking” function gives it more of air of new friends getting together.
Remember that business card, or five you collected? Follow them up with a kind note. Quickly introduce yourself in the opening, mention where you met then let them know you’d love to have coffee. Again, no pushy “This is my business” talk, just would love to get together talk. You may even mention what you noticed about their business on their card and show interest. The idea is to be genuinely interested in connecting with nothing in it for yourself.
Bonus: Go Outside Your Business Niche
“Birds of a feather. . .” I be you know how that one ends don’t you? Well, don’t be a bird that flocks with like feathers. Be a bird that looks for opportunity and adventure with other birds. Yes, your business may be yarn, crafts, editing etc. but, what if you started to network with publishers, dressmakers and restauranteurs, how much do you think that would expand your creativity in strategic or joint partnerships? I’m thinking A LOT! If you must, go learn or ‘dabble’ in something new so you can meet new and exciting people.
Online (aka. In the Virtual World)
Making friends online is a bit different online, but still with the same intention and result. If you want to meet an artist, you’d go to his opening or find out where he hangs out. If you want to meet a restauranteur then you’d go to her restaurant and inquire. Online, you can visit websites / blogs and leave relevant and insightful comments for those you want to get to know. You can follow them on social media and start conversations. The venue may be different but the intention, to make friends, remains the same and if you do that, thins will work out well.
Get to Know Your Audience
The online world makes it easier than ever to get to know your audience in a networking sort of way. Setting up your social media and interacting will your audience will give you wonderful insight into what they like, don’t like, need and want. Audience networking could be the best thing you could do for your business.
If you’d like to network with other artists, join groups. There are a number of groups on various social platforms that focus on different things. However, remember to go outside of your niche and comfort zone to network with those who have audiences that may be interested in what you have to offer. Being an active member of a group can help extend your customer reach by introducing you to new audiences.
Send an email, instant message or leave a kind word on someone’s page. Reaching out to those with whom you’d like to create a bond can be as easy as leaving them a quick note on their Facebook page, tagging them in a Tweet or sending them an email. But, just like in the real world, don’t try to close a deal without first becoming a friend. Introduce yourself and be pleasant.
Once you’ve started making friends and getting to know people, offer them joint venture opportunities. Ways that you can both benefit from an event. Those in complimentary fields can also become joint venture partners offering both yours and their audience an opportunity for more. Be open to giving and soon it will turn into a circle of giving and receiving.
One of the best ways to consistently work on making new connections and meeting new people is by scheduling time in your week to specifically leave comments, send notes or learn more about those you’d most like to connect with. If you schedule it into your daily or weekly routine, then you’ll know when the time comes, that’s what it’s for and you’ll be focused.
Attend a Conference / Seminar / Retreat
A great way, that I plan on using in the coming months, is to go outside your comfort zone and attend a conference, seminar or retreat. Why are they so great, because you can make friends, spend sequestered time and truly get a feel for those you may or may not want to do business with after your time together. Attending a conference on marketing or sales or even social media can get you great contacts and leads that otherwise you’d never be able to get. Step out and meet people!
Enjoy the Process
As in everything you do for your business, enjoy the whole process. Don’t be in a hurry to push your business that you miss an opportunity to make friends. Don’t be in a hurry to take that you forget to give. Network for fun, enjoy the process and it will work for you.
Go Givers Sell More is a great book to read because it will help you understand that it’s all in the giving, even in networking. When you go with a spirit of giving and not receiving, things will work out as they should and you’ll always receive what is your due. After reading this book I began to look at everything I did in my business differently. You’ve probably heard it many times, but I’m going to say it again, giving as much as you can while honoring yourself means that what you need will come.
I hope you found this article helpful.