When I started my own business I had a 20 month old and a 3 year old. My decision to be my own boss had been preceded being made redundant, whilst the global economy crashed. Yes, that was three years ago. As my business was started in haste, I didn’t have the luxury of pots of savings to full back on or months of diligent preparation. My redundancy pay was, shall we say, not as generous as I would have liked it to be. All these reasons meant I needed to put food on the table quickly, but without the luxury of being at every networking opportunity available. Childcare made it difficult to get out there. For example, I’ve not yet found a nanny or childminder who is willing to start at 06:00 at the morning to let me go breakfast networking. In addition, evening networking events tends to get expensive when you factor in the cost of a babysitter for the evening.
Let’s forget the cost of physically being there – I also didn’t want to spend large amounts of time away from my family. My whole reason for wanting to be my own boss, was to enable me to build an income around the demands of my young family. So, I needed a safe and easy way of building my profile without having to actually get out there and physically meet folks.
So how did I do that? And, more importantly, how can you learn from my example regardless of whether you are building a client portfolio, or just making sure your profile is high within your firm?
1. Know who is important to you
If my experience working with delegates on business networking courses is anything to go by, most people have not sat down and thought about who they need to spend time with, and why. If you want to spend some on this you will enjoy Your 7 part guide to strategically managing relationships – Part 2. If you only have limited time to physically ‘be there’, then choose wisely which events you will ‘be there’, and who you will be spending time when you are there. For example, if you are employed, then who are the top 10 people who through their influence, position or budget can help you achieve your business goals? Have you ever mapped out your ideal network? If you can only meet 2 people each week for a coffee or lunch together, who should be those two people? If you have a clear networking strategy this makes it a lot easier, click to read Networking without a strategy? Does it matter?
2. Use social networking sites
Ten years ago, when social networking sites were in their infancy, it was all about phone, email or meeting up in person. Now, you can keep in touch through many different channels – phone, email, meeting, skype, text, twitter, LinkedIn, facebook. For example, when I was working a 3 day week, I used to keep up with all the gossip in my department via Facebook. Sites like Twitter and LinkedIn provide you with a one to many communication tool. This allows you to have conversations ‘little and often’ between the 1:2:1 interactions, such as a phone call. My use of Twitter and LinkedIn now negates my requirement to be at large conferences or mix and mingle events. I tend to use them to make initial contact with potential prospects and introducers.