The right connections can help elevate your startup
All entrepreneurs know the importance of a good connection. Whether discovering resources through a friend of a friend or finding a mentor or investor, what they say is true: it’s all about who you know. What most people don’t realize, however, is that entrepreneurs need to play a somewhat different game than most business-savvy individuals. Here are the go-to maneuvers you can enlist to make networking count as you grow your business.
Find the Right Events
Sure, every networking opportunity seems like a great one — the more people you know the better, right? For strapped entrepreneurs however, this method might actually put a strain on valuable time or resources. Instead of spreading yourself too thin, think about the events that will actually maximize and amplify your networking efforts. Look for gatherings that are industry specific, more intimate, or even outside your comfort zone. Attending a dinner with Start in CLE might not sound as appealing as wandering around a huge conference with the potential to meet hundreds of people, but an event like this will actually generate better conversations and lead to a wealth of local resources.
Drop the Pitch
Founders know how important it is to be pitch-ready should they ever meet the right investor or connection but launching right into your elevator pitch can be a bit off-putting. Instead of selling your startup, try genuinely getting to know who you’re talking to. This means that the conversation will revolve around the other person as you ask insightful questions about their life and work. When it comes to making lasting connections, knowing the particulars about someone and not, say, only their recent investments, or even worse, nothing at all, will help you foster genuine relationships that can build your business.
Play Your Part
Networking isn’t just about building up your network into an army of silos, it’s about giving back, too. Once you’ve planted some roots, see who you can introduce among those that make up your network. Fostering these connections will not only make you a great team player, it will build a sense of community that you’re deeply tied to. That way, when people try to remember where they met the person who changed their career or their startup’s trajectory, they’ll remember your introduction and seek out ways to replicate community and lend you a helping hand.
Stay in Touch
Once you’ve established a network, don’t let all your hard work go to waste by only calling people when you need something. Prove that you’re interested in genuine relationships by following up on things you’ve promised and by reaching out when things have been quiet. Even if you can just offer lunch or ask what events someone is attending next, your connections will notice your diligence in maintaining a mutual relationship and be more likely to seek you out for other opportunities. Staying top-of-mind requires more than sending constant emails, however. Instead of spamming an inbox, send a card, give a call or set up a time to grab coffee to demonstrate that your connection is more than just a resource.
Even after you’ve picked the right events to attend, actually investing in your local community is a surefire way to meet others. Volunteer, donate or lend a hand. Drop by your local startup hub for a fireside chat. Networking doesn’t have to mean attending an organized convention or going to see a speaker. In fact, by building up local ties and demonstrating your commitment to serving those around you, you’ll automatically foster genuine links to your neighborhood, and by default, you will understand the people and other entrepreneurs who live and work nearby.
Whenever you’re getting ready to put on a nametag and head to a networking event, remembering these tips will help you build genuine relationships that will take you and your startup to the next level.