As an entrepreneur, you should always be trying to expand your network. You never know whom you’ll be able to connect with and where that connection will lead. As relationships become more and more essential to business, successful entrepreneurs need to be at the forefront, doing what they can to grow their networks.
Certainly, the very thought of "networking" may leave a bad taste in our mouths, as many of us don’t know where to start or even why we should even be networking in the first place. Yet networking should stem from your desires and needs.
For example, I was recently looking to learn more about digital marketing; instead of finding what I could online, I decided to attend the San Diego Digital Marketers Expert group offered on Meetup.com. After attending one meeting, I felt I'd obtained a strong understanding for digital marketing that I wouldn’t have fully comprehended online.
So, before connecting with someone, always have a reason to make it count. Networking with no goals in mind is like starting a business without an exit strategy. Below are three essential reasons to connect with others:
1. Network based on products you like.
Have you ever admired a company so much that you wanted to know the founder? Think Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia or Will Caldwell of Dizzle. In today's digital world, you may actually be able to connect with these founders if you reach out in the right way.
For example, I love eating the beef jerky made by Krave. I was so into the product that I wanted to know who the founder was. A day later, I was connected with Jonathan Sebastiani, the founder of Krave, on Linkedin. All I did was send him this short message, “Hey, Jonathan! Read your story, then tried some of your jerky and had to reach out. Amazing story, truly inspirational, and your product is awesome. Hope to connect as a fellow entrepreneur! Cheers -- Nathan.”
2. Network for future goals.
Networking can be a means to move toward your future endeavors. If you’ve ever wanted to start a company in a different industry, it's crucial to first understand how that industry operates. You can always join a Linkedin or Facebook group that covers your interests, but that won’t be as inclusive for you as attending an actual event.
While doing research for my upcoming backpack company, Corked, I attended a tradeshow that I knew major backpack brands like Jansport and Herschel would attend. From this event, I grasped an understanding of how to establish a backpack brand.
3. Network through your industry.
Almost every industry has events encompassing topics specifically relative to your market. Attending these conventions can be a plus for expanding your business, as people like to work with familiar faces. Once you establish yourself as a regular attendee, you may see your business blossom in that industry.
As an example, earlier this year I attended the Magic tradeshow, a major show for brands and retailers. Walking around, I could see the industry was fueled by relationships, as retail buyers were more comfortable ordering from brands that they had seen before.
To make networking easier, then, find a reason to connect with someone before starting the conversation. This goal-setting attitude will add purpose to the events you attend and the people you meet. Though many relationships may never directly benefit you, you never know whom you can help through your network and how that person you helped may be of assistance to you.
Entrepreneurship is becoming more relationship-focused, and networking should be a central tool you utilize to move your startup forward.