Note: This article was originally published on The Huffington Post –
Establishing a strong professional network can benefit your business several ways, from receiving feedback by bouncing ideas off successful entrepreneurs and business owners to opening doors that were once closed — building your professional network should be something you are always working on.
You have undoubtedly heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” right? I’m such a firm believer in building business connections and relationships that I decided to launch an online community that business owners and entrepreneurs can access 24/7 — EBOC launches July 15th and I’m excited to be able to provide a community that people can connect through.
The right connections can open doors with some amazing opportunities behind them, so here are eight tips to help you grow your professional network.
1. Make your presence noticeable.
You have to make sure people know what you are doing and what you have in the works — otherwise nobody will ever know. Keep in touch with your professional contacts via email, social media and face-to-face meetings.
When you maintain contact you remain on their radar, which can result in them name-dropping you to their contacts. A simple, “Oh, I actually know somebody you should contact” can occur simply because you kept your presence noticeable.
2. Attend networking events — online & offline.
Every industry has conferences and trade shows that provide great networking opportunities. There are also local meet-ups and local organizations that hold regular events that are great for building your network.
Many people forget that there are also plenty of networking opportunities online. LinkedIn groups are great and Twitter chats are becoming very popular these days. I personally love Twitter chats because they allow a huge group of people to participate regardless of their location.
3. Hang out at the same places the people you want to connect with hang out.
This applies to both online and offline — as mentioned above, LikedIn groups and Twitter chats are great places to connect. If you want to connect with a certain group online then participate and introduce yourself.
Offline this could be a particular lunch spot or a happy hour bar after work. Frequent the places that the people you want to connect with can be found at. Be friendly and social and you will make new connections.
4. Don’t always take — give as well.
When networking don’t always make it about you — make sure to share you knowledge and expertise and offer to help when you see an opportunity. Helping other people will often come back to you tenfold. Helping someone is going to give them extra incentive to return the favor.
Being a connector will also help your long-term networking — connecting two people you know who will benefit from knowing each other strengthens your network. The key takeaway: don’t be selfish and think of how you can help everyone you come in contact with.
5. Be a good listener.
When out networking don’t always try to dominate the conversation by talking about yourself – instead, listen to other people talk. First, people naturally love to talk about themselves, so if you can show that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say it will help to build that connection.
Also, by listening you can identify specific challenges someone may be having — and if you can help in any way or offer a suggestion it will help to strengthen the relationship.
6. Never be afraid to ask.
This one is short and sweet — if you want something you can’t be afraid to ask for it.
Want an introduction? Ask for it.
Want a meeting? Ask for it.
Want advice or feedback? Ask for it.
7. Always think about long-term relationships.
Making a connection and exchanging business cards is a foot in the door, but it’s long-term relationships that lead to business deals. Concentrate on forming long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial for both sides. Make a conscious effort to establish a two-way street for all of your professional connections.
8. Follow up with everyone you connect with.
Make sure that you follow up with every connection you make. If you come home with a few business cards make sure to take a few minutes the next morning and send an email letting the person know it was a pleasure to meet them. This is also a great time to let them know they should reach out to you in the event that you can ever help them in any way.
Also, if you promise to do something — do it. There is nothing worse than not following through with something you told someone you would do.
Jonathan Long is the Founder & CEO of Market Domination Media, an online marketing agency specializing in creative outside the box branding campaigns. Jonathan also created EBOC (Entrepreneurs & Business Owners Community), an online community.
EXHIBIT SPACE IS SOLD OUT!
Next week, the Chamber will host one of its most popular networking and promotional events of the year. The 2019 Investor to Investor Trade Fair is designed to promote member-to-member and local spending. This event is a mini-trade fair with Chamber member exhibitors promoting their products and services in a casual “Business After Hours” setting. Enjoy great food and drink while browsing exhibits and displays from fellow chamber members. AND, be the first to see the amazing new renovations at St. Florian Event Center.
Every time we open email, we’re looking at communication that can drive business to our firm. Whether the email is from a vendor, customer, or colleague, we likely act quickly to respond and follow-through. Since we may often get emails from the same address or contact, we may sometimes act too quickly when we reply to an email. We may not notice that the email is, in fact, not from whom we think. Such a message may ask us for payment details, password credentials, or other seemingly innocent and important details what we’d typically jump right on. The desire to reply quickly can open the opportunity for headaches.
The Chamber recently announced its, “Chamber Challenge” for the 2018 holiday season. “Sometimes it helps to give people ideas for specific things that they can do to help,” said Tricia Maple, Chamber president. “So rather than just promoting the overall concept of buying locally this holiday season, we came up with a simple list of three action items.”
The first is to challenge yourself to purchase at least one fourth of your holiday gifts locally. Seek out and explore our local businesses, think outside the box for unique items and if you are purchasing gift cards, buy them from a local business. And if you must purchase gift cards to a national chain, purchase them at a local grocery store. Those dollars will still be kept somewhat local.
Second, patronize a business that you’ve never been to before. From downtown Steubenville to Hollywood City Center, Toronto, Mingo, Richmond and everywhere in between, there is no doubt a new (or long time) business that you’ve never been to. Make it a point to seek out at least one and make a purchase, meet the owner or manager and give them a chance to earn your repeat business.
Last, if you are headed out of town for any reason, gas up at a local gas station and eat locally before you leave. By filling your tank and your belly locally (and on a regular basis) you’re pumping money into the local economy.
Buying locally just makes good sense and the holidays are a great time to start making it a daily habit. “I say it all the time but it’s worth repeating”, Maple continued. “We can’t expect our local businesses to support us, our kids’ activities and sports teams, our churches and charities, our events and fundraisers and then not support them when making a purchase. It’s unlikely that Amazon is going to give you a gift card for your spaghetti dinner door prize table and doubtful that a Pittsburgh business is going to buy an ad in your school’s football program. Support those who support you and think local first.”
Winners in 5 categories were honored Wednesday evening at the Chamber’s 110th Annual Meeting & Awards Dinner. Pictured from left is: Shawn Mihellis and Yianni Bourbakis from Theo Yianni’s Greek Restaurant, who was named “New or Emerging Business of the Year,” Jenn Cesta from the Public Library of Steubenville & Jefferson County, “Ambassador of the Year,” Dr. Jimmie Bruce from Eastern Gateway Community College, “Business of the Year,” Jim Morgan, recipient of the “Lifetime Achievement Award” and Jim McBane, accepting the “Young Professional of the Year Award “on behalf of Dan McBane, from McBane Insurance & Financial Services.
The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce 110 th Annual Awards Dinner & Meeting is set for Wednesday, October 17 th with this year’s theme, “Feeding The Local Economy:
Each year, Chamber members gather to recognize and honor the people and businesses who have done great things to make the local business community better.
Chamber members have long been asking for a better way to promote the job openings they have at their businesses. And a new, improved tool is now up and running.