A New Model for Results-Driven Networking
Building powerful business connections doesn't have to feel like a necessary evil. Take steps to achieve your goals while helping others without wasting your time.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Networking is supposed to help build an ecosystem of professional contacts who can drive results for your career and the growth of your business.
Unfortunately many traditional tactics like attending networking events end up being a waste of time for many entrepreneurs and encourage them to avoid networking like the plague.
Networking can still work, though, if you take a different approach based on building long-term relationships with existing clients and target other professionals who can add undeniable value to what your business offers.
Derek Coburn's book Networking Is Not Working, published this past spring, outlines the following tips for tackle networking in a new way.
Related: Meeting the Right People Is Worth It, Even If You Have to Pay for Access
1. Shift your mindset.
The approach many take to networking doesn't work anymore. That's because everyone is trying to do the same thing by attending events, finding ways to help out other professionals on a surface level and get more leads through a post-event follow-up.
Since the networking landscape is saturated with professionals all attempting a similar approach, results are typically few and far between.
Coburn argued that people can still achieve their goals through networking but must focus on creating more meaningful and long-lasting relationships by providing more value to existing network and contacts.
2. Identify key contacts.
When networking, strategically identify people whom you can help and who can also help you as well, Coburn wrote.
In my experience, meeting someone at a networking event, exchanging contact information and following up via email isn't enough to form a strong relationship.
Coburn suggested taking the time to research your industry and target specific individuals with whom there's a potential for long-term value exchange. Meet with them one on one or attend an event they will attend. In this manner, you can get time with them on their schedule.
Related: The Entrepreneur's Secret Handbook of the Favor Economy
3. Find clients for your clients.
One of the best ways to add value to your network that many often neglect is helping existing clients get more clients of their own.
Coburn suggested that being a facilitator of strong connections is one of the best ways to contribute to your clients' bottom line and stay ahead of the competition.
Being a useful resource to your connections can help you grow your business gradually over time, building trust and driving a noticeable increase in profit. Many professionals want instant grantification from their network, but there is more value to be achieved by working with contacts over the long term.
4. Create a power network.
Once you've identified individuals to network with and introduced yourself, create a group of your most important contacts, or a power network. You'll focus on these people more extensively, Coburn suggested.
It is hard to quantify which contacts are important to your career, since everyone has different goals, according to the industry. Try to curate a group of the professionals whom you're able to deliver the most value to and vice versa.
This group of contacts should become the main focus of your ongoing networking efforts so you can reach the people who will have the most impact on your business. It is obviously OK to have connections outside this group, but these individuals are less of a priority for cultivating a relationship with.
5. Host your own events.
Lastly, Coburn proposed creating your own series of events where you can bring together members of your power network for a lunch or another get together that will facilitate further connections, conversations leading to business opportunities, continued visibility for you and goodwill among attendees.
Regularly hosting and coordinating your own networking events can help you become the ultimate resource and connector for your network.
What networking tips have worked the best for you? Share your networking experiences in the comments below.
Related: In the Digital Age, Relationships Have Become Fragmented. Here's How to Enhance Them.