As an entrepreneur, building a strong network is one of the most important things you can do to grow your business. It can help you gain access to resources, potential partners, and customers that you may not have otherwise.
Networking is not a one-time activity but a continuous process that requires time, effort, and patience. The benefits of networking are numerous, from gaining access to potential customers and investors to learning about the latest industry trends and technologies. A strong network can also provide emotional support and mentorship, essential for entrepreneurs who often face challenges and uncertainty.
In this article, we will share insights and strategies to motivate you to build a strong network, including opportunities to attend industry events, join associations, participate in community activities, and engage with online networks.
PR expert Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO at Mavens & Moguls, emphasizes the relevance of LinkedIn as a professional platform. She says:
"To build your network I am a big fan of LinkedIn especially since we have pivoted to a hybrid model of mostly online events. For the foreseeable future we will continue to build our networks starting with LinkedIn which adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with know people in common. LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or rolodex, it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. With LinkedIn, you don't have to wait for a networking event to make meaningful business connections. You get one chance to make a great first impression so make sure every section of your LinkedIn profile is complete, with no blank spaces or gaps. Include a professional head shot and powerful headline followed by a summary with highlights of your personal brand, what you do well and how you can benefit potential clients or employers. Keep this section brief and easy to skim for best results. Keywords are a great way to help professionals in your industry find your profile and strategic keywords in your profile give you an advantage in networking too. To present yourself as a thought leader for media post interesting and educational content by sharing a great article you've written/read recently on LinkedIn. Follow journalists on Twitter before you pitch so you understand their beat/style and can personalize your outreach and make an effort to be informed on their areas of coverage for best results."
Kent Lewis, CMO at Deksia, reports from his own networking success:
"I moved to Portland, OR in 1995 and knew 1 person, my cousin. Today, I'm connected with hundreds of area professionals through decades of dedicated networking. My network has led to new jobs, new partners, clients and even close friends. Pre-LinkedIn, I focused my networking efforts on local industry trade organization events. When I saw a gap in the networking scene in Portland, I started pdxMindShare in 1999 and it now has a 12,000+ member LinkedIn Group. I've joined like-minded entrepreneurs in local organizations like Oregon Entrepreneurs Network and globally via Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). Mostly, I've invested in growing my LinkedIn network and invested time in LinkedIn Groups and related Slack channels. A modest investment in each organization or online community has reaped 10x ROI on my time. For press coverage, I subscribe to HARO, Qwoted, Business Journal Leadership Trust and of course PRontheGO to connect with editors and story opportunities with tremendous success (52+ press mentions so far in 2023)."
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Julia Voloshchenko, PR Manager at Usetech, emphasizes the exchange of ideas and information and the multiplier effect that comes with a network:
"Networking opens up a lot of opportunities, both for a novice professional and for an already established specialist. Networking is about sharing new ideas and information, and it's also about new opportunities, such as attracting partners or customers. The goal of networking is for professionals to communicate and help each other grow in their careers. This is a powerful way out of the comfort zone, pumping self-presentation skills and opening up new opportunities. Firstly, you expand your dating network: whether it's offline events or communication via LinkedIn. Secondly, you develop your personal brand and improve the reputation of your brand. Third, you are in plain sight or the center of attention. If earlier you built your network of contacts on your own, now the contacts themselves come to you after hearing about you from their friends. And this has a great effect on business development or on the sale of products. Also, one of the advantages of networking is the exchange of ideas. New ideas help you grow professionally and try something new. After hearing about the experience of a colleague or the experience of another company, you may want to try to implement the same in your company. Fresh ideas are always progress for business."
Here is a list to help you build a strong network:
1. Attend Industry Events: Industry events are an excellent opportunity to meet other professionals in your field. They offer a chance to connect with others who share similar interests and are in a similar industry. Be sure to prepare before the event, research who will be attending, and make a list of people you want to meet. Be mindful of your time and prioritize your interactions with key individuals.
2. Join Industry Associations: Joining industry associations is another great way to build your network. These associations offer access to resources, information, and industry-specific events. By joining, you become part of a community of professionals with similar interests, giving you an opportunity to learn and share ideas.
3. Participate in Community Activities: Participating in community activities can be a great way to build relationships outside of your industry. Consider joining local business groups, volunteering in your community, or attending local events. This will help you to meet people from a variety of industries, expanding your network.
4. Engage with Online Networks: Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be powerful tools for building your network. Engage with your peers online, participate in industry-specific discussions, and share your knowledge and expertise. Connecting with journalists on these platforms can increase your chance of press coverage.
To increase the chance of press coverage, you can:
• Ensure you online profiles are up-to-date and professional.
• Be active on social media and engage with journalists and media outlets.
• Attend industry events where journalists are likely to be present.
• Participate in community events that attract media attention.
In summary, building a strong network as an entrepreneur takes effort, but it is well worth it. Opportunities such as attending industry events, joining associations, participating in community activities, and engaging with online networks can help you grow your business and achieve your goals. By preparing beforehand, prioritizing your time, and engaging with your peers, you can build meaningful relationships that will benefit you and your business for years to come.
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