Building and creating relationships is critical to one's success in business. Making connections and networking with people in and outside of your industry is an essential component to growing your business further. Kind of a no brainer, correct?
And luckily, we live in a time that makes it even easier than ever to build valuable, supportive relationships both online and off. We have an army of tools at our disposal to keep us connected with others in and outside of our businesses.
Yet, too often I see people miss opportunities to build relationships online that can lead to possibilities and friendships within their business.
Building & tending to the community you’re part of
As we all know, running a small business means an enormous amount of things to keep on top of. And community is one of them, but the good news is building networking and outreach into your business actually gives back!
You’re a part of a community within your industry online, whether you realize it or not - even if you’re brand new to growing your business online. As small businesses existing in a vacuum isn’t an option for us we need our clients, community, and industry peers - especially if we want to be truly successful. Existing in a vacuum just isn’t possible.
Don't be fooled, growing a small business further is all about relationships both online and off. Now, I’m not implying that it’s all about what you can get or what you will achieve from these relationships. No, we should be building relationships regardless of the outcomes - of course, outcomes are nice, but that's the gravy that comes after.
Networking is as good or as gross as you make it
I often hear from people that it feels shallow to spark up engagement, or that networking feels tacky or gross to them. Here’s a secret: it’s only that way if you make it that way. All networking is is connecting with other like minded humans! It’s really that simple.
As humans we crave community, and when you network warmly and authentically, people respond to it. Plus you feel damn good when you connect with others! And it can make the loneliness of growing a small business dissipate.
I love this quote (and share it A LOT) by Jon Acuff from his book "Do Over" because I think it captures perfectly what it means to network and it zeroes in on the fear people feel about it.
Building authentic and real relationships in and around your business doesn’t have to feel gross, self-centered, or driven by competition. At all. It’s all about how you approach them.
I’m here today because of the relationships I’ve built online and off.
I can already hear you saying, but what if networking or outreach feels uncomfortable or makes you squirm?
Here’s a secret: I’m actually an introvert. I need a lot of time alone and I get really uncomfortable in settings with lots of people. BUT, I get my energy from other people. So, networking on my own terms has been a huge asset in helping me build my own business.
Networking and relationship building is what you make it. You don’t have to be smarmy or needy. You can simply be helpful and friendly. It’s really that simple. Just show up and just be your best self.
6 authentic ways to network & outreach
Let’s talk about tactics and strategies you can put into place in your own business that help you get in front of other people and shape some solid friendships and relationships. This is the fun part.
Social Media (in general)
It's not called social media because it means get online and shout about all that you’re doing and then peace out. This is the difference between broadcasting vs. engaging.
There’s a ton of comment fatigue online; meaning people are commenting less and less. You can use this to your advantage and create meaningful relationships with those in and around your industry by actually engaging in what they’re posting and sharing.
Use social media to build your network in a way that helps you not only attract clients, but meet other people in the same and adjacent industries. Follow people you admire, genuinely comment on their posts, reach out to them via DM. Not only is this a great way to expand your network, it makes social media feel like it once did.
Pro-tip: While it’s easy to focus solely on your potential clients, don’t miss out out on building a solid network within your industry.
Use IG Stories to connect with your audience and peers! I do a lot of live IG’s and Stories now and I ask people to DM me - and the response has been awesome!
I recently ran a free workshop and I did a few Stories where I told people if they wanted to watch the workshop to shoot me a DM. The response was fantastic. With this strategy you’re not only personally engaging with people, you’re giving them helpful value too!
Pro-tip: Make sure you send them to a landing page so you capture their email addresses.
Virtual coffee talks!
Once you start to meet other business owners online and have been engaging with them (genuinely!) reach out and see if they would be interested in hanging out over Skype or Zoom.
This is one of the best ways I’ve personally gotten to know other women in my line of business. Owning a small business, especially when you’re a solopreneur can feel lonely! I don’t know about you but the only cubicle mates I have are my dog and 2 cats. Reaching out to other women in my industry has been a huge asset for me in making lasting, supportive relationships.
Pro-tip: As you start to get to know people better, look out for people you can partner with to do joint webinars or workshops together! This is a great way to share audiences.
I’ve made a lot of connections in FB Groups. I pay attention to who’s offering real value, and I try and help as many people as I can too. To be clear, I’m not just out to “build my brand” I genuinely love engaging and helping people online - so this is something I truly enjoy.
Look for FB Groups that are in your industry that offer high value - leave any that don’t immediately. Time is finite and wasting time in noisy FB Groups is most likely not going to offer you anything, so don’t be afraid to bounce if you’re not contributing or getting any real value.
Once you join one group, there will be other groups suggested to you in the right hand column on FB (on your desktop).
Pro-tip: Use the search bar to find groups in your industry by using keywords, and topics. There are so many, so pay attention to member count and activity before you join.
Online communities, masterminds, and courses (with a community component)
I’ve also joined online communities like CoCommercial and Fizzle that have a monthly or yearly subscription fees. These communities are not only a great for expanding your professional development, but they’re also an excellent way to meet other people within your industry, and grow your network for clients.
Masterminds and courses with a community aspect are another helpful avenue for expanding your network. Show up, be involved, give back, and make friends that will be there for you!
Work it into your weekly routine
Be intentional and deliberate about growing your network. One of the ways you can do this is to keep an ongoing spreadsheet that has separate columns for peers, podcasts, conferences, blogs, and publications. I keep one of these in Google Drive, and I add to it all of the time.
I pay attention to people I want to get to know better, podcasts I’d like to be featured on, conferences I’d like to attend, etc. And I work the outreach into my weekly workflow. I try and reach out to one or two of these people, podcasts, etc. a week.
This sort of outreach is good for you and your business for a number of reasons. It helps you get tighter on your messaging and what you offer, it allows other people in your industry get to know your business, and it can possibly bring you press.
Give back, and ye shall receive!
In no way am I suggesting any of the above in a self-serving way. I fundamentally believe in creating community and networking with people. Nobody wants to be around someone who talks about themselves all the time or asks and asks and asks but never gives back. Don’t be that person. Plus, people recognize that kind of behavior immediately.
Take the time to get to know people within your industry and be supportive to others. Engagement is a huge part of building relationships and the key to growing your business online further. I’m not joking when I say existing online is just the same as existing in real life.
All of this takes time and thought. But stay open to change, remain curious, watch what others do online, and most of all pay attention to what works for you! You have the power to create your own space online and off, and in doing so grow your business further.
Have questions for me? Want to share a story about how you've grown your business online through networking? Let me know below.