Mastering the Art of Networking: A Professional’s Guide

Career DevelopmentNetworkingReputation Management
Mastering networking will require stretching yourself, perhaps even attending or exhibiting at a trade show.

Mastering the art of networking will do more than bring your brand an immediate bump in business. As you network, you’ll develop connections and find mentors who’ve gone before you. The best way to master the art of networking is by embracing the spirit of the endeavor. The goal isn’t just to line your own pockets but to come alongside other small business entrepreneurs and lift one another.

Your personal brand is how others perceive you. You can only control so much of the narrative, yes, but networking is an excellent place to start. When people talk about your company, what do they say? Here’s how to tap into your industry and local communities and make connections with key players so you control more of the narrative.

1. Know Your Voice

Before worrying about how others see you, you need to understand the image you present to the world. What are your most important principles as a company? Are there any causes you care about? Is your voice serious or lighthearted? Take the time to write out who you are.

2. Create an Elevator Speech

When meeting new connections, have a one-minute elevator pitch prepared. For example, if you step into an elevator or local bar and bump into a local news anchor, are you ready to share what you do? Opportunity is often about the right timing, but you have to prepare to grasp those moments.

You have to be clear as to why you’re better than your competitors. Why should any influencer help you? A mentor needs to see what’s in the relationship for them. Think through every potential type of person you might meet and what you would say to them. Rehearse the words over and over.

3. Join Organizations

It’s much easier to make connections if you put yourself in the places your ideal networking partners spend their time. If you want a particular mentor, go to restaurants they frequent, spend the day golfing where they do, and join the same groups.

Your local chamber of commerce is an excellent resource. You’ll meet like-minded business owners and can pick their brains for ideas.

Join industry groups and attend conferences and trade shows. The best place to meet people isn’t usually in a workshop. It is in the bars and restaurants within the meeting venue. It’s at the nightly dinner where people talk and chat as they wait for the speaker.

4. Mastering the Art of Networking Means Remaining Authentic

As you meet different people and talk about your brand, it may be tempting to change your description to suit what they like. Instead, make it a firm rule to stay true to who you are and your personal brand’s vision.

Studies show 86% of consumers cite authenticity as vital to their connection to a brand. Remaining consistent shows you’re reliable and trustworthy. If you’ve defined who you are and your voice, then it’s easier to stick to it.

5. Cross-Promote Your Brand with Others

When you do find a few like-minded businesses, consider cross-promotional efforts. For example, can you run a special where customers get a discount for shopping at both stores, buy a bundled package, or otherwise benefit from frequenting both brands?

One example might be a personal coach and a home organizational specialist. When the life coach has a disorganized client, they might recommend the specialist to get back on track and vice versa.

6. Devote Yourself to a Cause

What do you care about most? Part of your personal branding likely involves a charity or attempt to make the world a better place. Find what meshes with your brand. For example, if you are an artist, you might care about supporting young people and helping them develop a passion for the arts.

Volunteer at a local charity tied to your cause. While you shouldn’t help out just to gain recognition, many places will mention their volunteers and link back to the brand. Go ahead and accept this perk as part of your hard work and building your personal branding.

Stay Alert to Opportunities

Networking is about grasping chances as they come your way. Try to talk to every person you meet and tell them about what you do. Go to meetings and join organizations that make the most sense for your brand. You never know when you might meet the perfect mentor or marketing partner. Share your heart, your passions, and your business with each individual, and be open to any offers to work together.