What do ItsNotWhatYouKnow (INWYK), LinkedIn, Ryze and ZeroDegrees have in common? They represent a technological twist to business networking. Forget your business cards, and stay at your computer, because these 24-hour networking clubs connect you with clients, partners and employees over the Internet.
It's simple to join, and most clubs are free or have a free level of access. Complete the registration form, invite your colleagues to join, and get on each other's "connections" lists. The bigger your network, the greater your referral opportunities are, because members click on your contacts to see who you know.
The following techniques can help you meet valuable contacts and land new projects online:
1.Write a complete profile. Include the names of companies and people you've previously worked with, and describe your past projects in detail. Listing extensive information improves the chances of your profile appearing as a match to members' search queries. Members might then recognize companies or people they know, and can ask about you and your company's services.
2.Get endorsements. It's often not appropriate to list personal recommendations on your company's Web site, and prospects may be too busy to ask for your referral list and hunt them down. So ask your colleagues who are network members for testimonials that'll generate instant credibility for you and your company.
3.Run your own search. Need new business now? Type a company name, a personal name, a geographic location or a topic into the network's search engine. A few e-mails could generate an introduction to your next client.
Because business networks are also used to find partners and employees, they may seem similar to an online job board. What makes them special? Brian Alvey, sales manager for Enterprise Electrical & Mechanical in Indianapolis and a member of INWYK, points out several differences. First of all, posting a job opening is free on INWYK. Second and more important, according to Alvey, the employer's information is visible on INWYK, and people are encouraged to communicate with each other directly. The need to quickly find skilled people in the commercial contracting industry has posed challenges for Alvey, since his employer has grown from a team of 19 to more than 115 in one year. His job posting on INWYK resulted in an e-mail inquiry within hours and his first of several hires.
Who do you want to meet? Post a profile on an online business network, invite colleagues to join and link up, and then scan the club. Someone who can send your company significant business or new talent may be waiting.