It seems from the livestreamed events that are coming down from Austin's South by Southwest Interactive Festival, that the chance to meet and greet is just beyond the red ropes. So while TechCrunch highlighted ways to build relationships with top guns who attend SXSW, folks who can't get on a plane need equally ingenious ideas for extending their business networks.
These methods build connections that will not fail, while you go about your less than charmed lives.
In order to build your business network, you must consider that human beings connect emotionally through relationships, and relationships can only be cultivated over time. So in conjunction with your efforts to mine LinkedIn and find folks by surfing and slinging messages, commit to shifting your thinking and actually doing things for and with the people in your business network.
These 18 steps can be done in the evening, on weekends, or even in the spare few minutes between things, while you commute to work or sit in front of the boob tube. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need a huge chunk of time in order to expand you business network. Or, that business networking is just for those out of a job.
The prime time to network is now. Here’s how.
1. Send useful articles.
2. Invite your contacts to join you at an evening out, preferably one with learning and mingling.
3. Re-tweet their content, comment on their blog, share or like their stuff.
4. Send a thank you gift or card that shows thought. Even if you have said it in the past, the currency of business relationships are the relationship itself. Build it with real concern.
5. Suggest connections and introduce them. It has been said that you should never eat alone, so why go for doubles when you can triangulate with a new face?
6. Offer to interview them for your blog post, on a podcast, or for an article that you save and upload to a Scribd, where anyone can become a published author.
7. Spontaneously write them a recommendation on LinkedIn.
8. Add your review of their service to TripAdvisor/Yelp or similar online review site.
9. Show up to their event. Peeps work hard to create valuable business networking events, and just turning out helps them look successful (and in many cases, provides you with the opportunity you seek).
10. Review their stuff on your own site. Mention them (or their firm) by name and offer a backlink. (And by the way, you should always have a Google Alert set to your name and your brand, so you can know immediately when you are being mentioned.)
11. Spend some of your time at the table they need to staff or the booth they are working at a trade show, so they can roam and enjoy a break.
12. Offer up your workplace space after hours. Especially in cities, if you work at a law firm or brokerage, those small conference rooms that are empty in the evening could be gold for a networking group.
13. Send a candidate suggestion to someone who you know seeks talent.
14. Refer a paying customer, or refer a contact to a potential third-party alliance partner.
15. Volunteer your time and expertise for a project with specific goals, that helps them in their work.
16. Recommend your contact or their firm for an award in their industry. Or, make up an award and recognize a whole bunch of your contacts.
17. Answer their question online (the news feed of Facebook, the Q&A of a closed group, et cetera), or send them what they need. I once heard about a relatively obscure blogger who followed the tweets of a big honcho. When he advised that he needed some inspiration, the blogger was quick on the draw and printed up a set of silkscreened T-shirts with cool designs. When the follower sent it over, he made a connection for life.
18. Refer a person in your business network for a speaking opportunity. (When it happened to this reporter, I was so very grateful!)
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, greentechmedia.