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So, networking is all about building a relationship. That’s what they all say, and it’s true. Networking is here for us to gain customers, to gain customers we must first build relationships and prove our ability.

Hold on a tick though.

I think networking isn’t just about me gaining clients, it’s about me gaining connections to also help me look freaking awesome to my own clients. Yes. I said it. It’s about building my network, not just my networth.

The people I have met thanks to networking have helped me to be the person clients come to for suggestions, that aren’t in my own remit, for the people that I would recommend and for me to do the introductions.

This comes with the building of a relationhip. Knowing that the people I have connected with at networking events, after the events, over coffee and over Twitter (as well as Facebook and LinkedIn!) are good, will do what they say and on time is essential. This comes with getting to know their work IE getting them to do work for me. Which usually happens. If I don’t need their service, then I gage their personality, I like to think I’m a decent judge of character.

A few tips for building these relationships and building your network:

  1. Go into the networking event with an open mind. You need to not go to networking when all you are thinking about is money and yourself. You won’t get anything. Rather, go in thinking about who you will meet and how that will help your current and future clients, as well as your business. For example, thanks to meeting a particular videographer, I have been able to offer clients Youtube training and freaking amazing videos. I have also introduced him to a digital agency who can now do the same – thus building our businesses, and his. Awesome.
  2. Get to know the people you connected with, out of the networking event. This means connecting with them online, as well as doing that darn follow up. Then, go out for coffee one on one, if they want to.
  3. Use their service, if you need it. And pay for it. Don’t expect a trade for services. We all know we don’t do our best job unless we do it in the same way we do for all clients. If they offer this to you, then that is wonderful, but don’t act like your service is better than theirs, especially if yours is a product and theirs is a service – time is money. With one excellent referral partner I know, I have used them for our cover images. Thanks to this, I know they work well, do amazing things and stick to brief. As well as work uniquely for my needs, as I sometimes can’t come up with an idea! This now means I offer that service to larger clients, and they LOVE it.
  4. Keep the relationship going. Stay in touch. Continue to recommend them. Feature them in blogs, or talk about their services in social media. They will appreciate it, and will possibly reciprocate (even if they don’t continue to do it).
  5. Focus on your network. Add that you know particular people in specific industries, or that you are a member of a networking group. This helps people notice and ask. While I was working for a roofing firm, the signature at the bottom of our emails explained that we are connected with lots of trades, service providers and professionals, and to ask us if they need anything. This helped us to get a minimum of 5 referrals per WEEK to our network. Just a simple signature!

In summary? The point of networking, to me, is to help me build my business. I do this by building my network, creating awesome connections and helping my customers to know that I am the connected person in their own network, that they can come to for reliable and helpful businesses.

A bonus is that these people then do the same for me. That’s nice too :).

When’s your next networking meeting, how will you look to build you network?