Decide on your purpose
First, figure out what you’re seeking from your network. Do you want more customers, to get a contract, to have an informal advisory board, to find fresh ideas—or perhaps combination of all these? Your purpose will show you where to focus your efforts.
Use good networking etiquette
Networking isn’t about the hard sell. It’s about making personal connections and building relationships of mutual benefit. That starts with being attentive to other people’s opinions, challenges and needs. Self-promotion quickly turns off contacts.
When asked about your business, don’t drone on. Be ready with a concise, clear description of what you do and the unique value you offer.
A good place to start honing your efforts is online. For example, you can join conversations in discussion forums on social media sites such as LinkedIn or a business-related Twitter page. The Internet is a good place to practice your delivery and tweak it based on reactions.
You can also join business organizations and attend their events. Examples include the local chamber of commerce, industry groups and professional associations. Networking is the chief purpose of many of these groups.
It’s easy to get involved because business organizations always looking for new members. Volunteering with a business group is an especially good way to quickly make lots of new connections and offer value to others.”
Create your own group
You can further extend your networking reach by creating your own organization related to your business. You can start a nonprofit organization or an informal group with a page on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Target “people people”
It’s especially fruitful for your networking efforts to target “people people”—those with large, active networks relevant to your business, including salespeople in your industry.
People with large, relevant networks can spiral your network into huge numbers. For example, salespeople know lots of people and will know the people you want to meet. They’re great talkers, and their business is all based on who they know. You can offer to buy lunch as a way to break the ice. It’s usually accepted because they’re always buying lunch for other people.