According to a recent LinkedIn survey of almost 16,000 professionals across the globe, nearly 80 percent view networking as crucial for their career growth and success. However, despite this overwhelming consensus, 38 percent of surveyed professionals agree that staying in touch with their business networks can be difficult long-term.
It can feel intimidating or time-consuming to establish a network—let alone sustain it. If you aren’t sure where to begin (or need a quick refresher), Endeavor members have a few tips for making the most of networking opportunities and nurturing connections.
Update Your Elevator Pitch and Business Cards
Before you discount networking tools as obsolete or irrelevant, remember the basics are still effective—when used correctly. Think of your elevator pitch and business card as a metaphorical handshake. For better or worse, it can affect a new contact’s first impression of you and your organization!
When you’re in the process of nurturing a lead, it’s natural for them to have questions, so be ready with a clear, direct response. That’s where your elevator pitch and business cards come in. An elevator pitch is a concise (but actionable and engaging) summary of the mission behind your organization and – this part is key – how it will benefit the contact.
This pitch should only be a few brief, impactful sentences, so hone the content and delivery as much as possible. The goal is to pique the lead’s curiosity—at which time, you can move on to offering them a business card, so they’ll have a tangible reminder of your interaction. Here are a few key elements to feature prominently on the business card:
- Company name, logo, and brand visuals
- Contact information (phone number, email, URL, physical address if applicable)
- QR code to access your website and/or social media profiles
Be an Active, Visible Presence in the Community
Research from Harvard Business Review indicates that 95 percent of surveyed professionals think face-to-face communication is the best way to establish strong business relationships. To strengthen your network, become an integral part of the community where you live and operate. Start by partnering with other local businesses, volunteering with local non-profits (one of the most effective and under-recognized networking tools out there), joining in local traditions or events, or serving the local area to create brand awareness and bolster your reputation.
There may even be hidden networking opportunities within your community. For example, the coffee shop that makes your favorite caramel macchiato could display some of your marketing materials on the counter. Or the instructor of your fitness class may need a business consultant to expand their business. And, of course, we recommend checking out a local coworking space to connect with other professionals and entrepreneurs. Community outreach and involvement are some of the easiest, lowest-cost strategies to expand your business network organically.
Join the Local Chapter of a Business Organization
If you want to focus your networking reach on fellow entrepreneurs and leaders, join the local chapter of a business organization in your area. This simple step forward is an excellent way to meet other professionals in your industry, as well as those who may need your services. Forming those connections will be such an invaluable resource if you’re looking for mentorship, collaboration, support and encouragement from those who can relate to you.
Many of these business associations might even offer their own networking events, conferences or training seminars, where you can connect with entrepreneurs from all over the country. While local relationships are often easier to maintain, it never hurts to have nationwide contacts. Below are some credible organizations to look into:
- Small Business Administration
- Local Chambers of Commerce
- Entrepreneurs’ Organizations
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- Minority Business Development Agency
- Local/Regional Trade Associations
- Community-wide Non-Profits, like United Way
Use LinkedIn to Identify and Nurture Connections
Most social media platforms can be effective networking channels, but do not sleep on LinkedIn. According to the Audience Project, some 85 percent of Americans on LinkedIn use this platform to strengthen their professional networks. That’s a lot of potential leads! The desire for a relationship is already there. Follow these steps to initiate network-boosting communication on LinkedIn:
- Research a contact’s LinkedIn profile to ensure they have the position, expertise, and/or insight that matches what you want to learn.
- Identify areas you and a connection have in common, and use this information as a touchpoint to reach out and begin a conversation.
- Use LinkedIn’s advanced search function to locate contacts in specific niches such as a location, school, company, or business sector.
- Send the contact a message with one realistic call to action. For instance, ask if an individual is open to a coffee conversation or phone call.
- Follow-up if you don’t hear back after two weeks from when you first reached out. In many cases, some degree of persistence gets attention—but don’t overstep a boundary.
Take Advantage of Endeavor’s Member Directory
Endeavor’s Member Directory is one of the most unique networking tools in the Greenville area. Endeavor members can create their own listing, and anyone (members and non-members) can access it. This online resource gives you quick access to the contact information of all our member companies to help anyone build connections with the professionals in our area.
Each listing features the name of the business owner or manager, company website, services and specialties, email address, phone number, LinkedIn profile and a short elevator pitch. While Endeavor members provide a broad range of professional services, you can filter the directory search results by discipline if you want to connect with a more niche group within marketing and communications disciplines.
For instance, if you own a digital marketing firm, you could narrow the search to include copywriting, social media, web design, SEO and SEM or brand strategy and development. Or, if you’re transitioning into another field, you can expand the search to focus on areas like creative consulting, public relations or video production. However wide you cast the net, this Member Directory is an effective way to form local business relationships.
A Strong Network Is Essential for a Thriving Business
Whether you are new to networking or it’s been a while since you’ve had the time to touch base with your existing network, don’t let this vital component of business success slip through the cracks anymore. Building connections with clients, vendors, partners, fellow business owners and other stakeholders will benefit your entire organization for years to come – and help you become part of what makes Greenville so special