7 ways to network effectively

7 top networking tips

Disclosure: Just so you know, we may sometimes earn a small commission from affiliate links on this site.

When I started my first company some years ago I placed all my focus on creating a great offering, but almost no effort went into sales and networking. Needless to say that it took an incredibly long time to get off the ground - 6 years in fact.

During that time I learned a lot about how business works, and my focus has shifted almost completely onto sales, marketing and networking.

Nowadays, a good idea with a quality product backed by excellent service is the bare minimum required to succeed. Because there is so much competition (especially online), what sets companies apart these days is how effectively they can network and promote themselves.

In fact, one of my favorite sayings is,

It doesn't matter what business you are in, the business you are in is marketing.

But, if you're like me, networking and promotions don't come naturally and you have to work at them in order to succeed.

This article explores a bunch of great tips that will help you build a genuine network of people who can drive your brand forward (to (hopefully) achieve success in well under 6 years).

1. Create content that is useful

Think of content as the foundation upon which online interaction is built. The content you create and share online is proof of your expertise, knowledge, skills, ethos, philosophy, humor, lifestyle, and just about anything else.

Devote time to learning how to communicate effectively through content - regardless of whether it is blog writing or creating YouTube clips.

When it comes time to meet new people they will want to know what you have to say, who you are, what you stand for, and how qualified and competent you are. An online body of content provides instant proof.

It also serves as a great platform to stimulate debate and is a great way to get to meet new people as you share and discuss things.

2. Talk about other people

One thing that all companies do poorly is giving other people coverage and visibility on their own soapbox. Understandable, I guess... but fundamentally poor practice.

I'm not suggesting you devote a blog post to covering the latest release of a competitor's product, but I am saying that you can talk about other people, products and services that have made a positive difference in your life.

Talking about great people not only helps them gain exposure, but it also puts you on their radar, and helps people in your network at the same time - which gives you credibility.

3. Do stuff for other people

This is an extremely effective networking strategy, but you should apply a bit of common sense when using it.

Doing something for someone you have never met, and dropping them an email about it might work... but it might also come across as spam. Or worse, may be something that is actually undesirable for them.

Instead, keep your eyes and ears out for things that will help people already in your network. Then, do it and let them know about it.

For example, if you know a reporter is looking out for a story, and someone you know has a service that fits the bill. Take the time to forward on the reporters name, number, details, and what they're looking for to them - without asking for anything in return.

If your help turns out to be a major win, you will be given some of the credit, and this is this might prove to be really valuable down the line. Cost to you - 5 minutes.

4. Meet local people

Local people are the most likely to engage with you and your company in a meaningful way. But many people focus purely on social media and online marketing at the cost of missing out on "real" connections.

It doesn't matter where you are, there will always be a few surprising and potentially valuable contacts lurking around your home town. A retired businessman who happens to know the CEO of a company you want to sell to, a golfer who has a regular game with an investor, etc.

Local contacts are hugely important so get involved in local events and your community and make the most of the "low hanging fruit" that's all around you.

5. Nurture meaningful online relationships

It's a lot harder to build real relationships online. Not least of which is because there are millions of spammers and fakers trying their luck every second of the day - the rest tend to be salespeople and marketers looking to make money.

Many people are jaded when it comes to building solid connections online, but you can break through by focusing your efforts on a few individuals who you have identified as being interested and active in your niche.

Don't jump to sales or marketing as soon as you've made contact. Treat online relationships as a medium term project. Give people time to learn about who you are and whether or not they feel comfortable endorsing you and your enterprise.

If you do things right, new opportunities will come to you through those contacts in its own time - no pushy sales pitches required. Be patient with online connections.

6. Use your network intelligently

Ever been contacted by someone who has a huge number of social media connections? People who have thousands of LinkedIn connections?

How many people do you think you could sustain a meaningful relationship with? Does it make sense that they are working with and helping all those people on an individual basis? Probably not.

Grow your network selectively, and be sure to provide meaningful interactions and contributions to that network. For example, if you see a news article that would interest one person in particular, forward it to them individually - not to your whole network.

I regularly find myself removing contacts who have done enough to convince me to join their network, but then spend the rest of their time sending out form marketing materials and sales pitches.

Trust me, you'll generate more value through a handful of meaningful connections than a sea of worthless ones.

7. Include other people

This is something I was very poor at. My attitude to starting a company was that I was going to do it myself - be a self-made man.

Unfortunately, it's not the right way to go about things. You have to involve other people. A team of people striving for a common goal is far more effective than an individual.

You can choose to include people on a number of different levels. Get your family and friends involved on a casual basis, offer a talented graduate an equity share in return for lots of hard work, offer a talented but underutilized person an opportunity to get involved in a more challenging work environment, whatever fits.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is crucially important, and you can't do it without effective networking.

So those are the networking tips I have picked up over the last few years of working on and around startups. What other tips do you have?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

How to breakthrough with marketing

Businesses can take off overnight. Social networks, global media, the Internet, marketing and word-of-mouth that spans the globe can drive your message to millions of people instantly. But it rarely "just happens".

If you've been marketing your startup, product or business online then you'll have seen product launches that seemed to come out of nowhere to become the hottest thing around, or videos and content that have gone viral driving millions of potential customers through to the originators - the "Charlie bit my finger" YouTube video sensation netted that family several hundred thousand dollars in revenue:

While some people luck out and ride a wave of viral/social popularity, basing your livelihood on success through blind luck is not a particularly fruitful strategy. Most people have to work hard for quite some time before they achieve a breakthrough marketing success. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to give yourself every chance of success.

Sample press release template. Pic by Matthew Guay

The other day I decided to get some coverage in the news - actually, I wanted to get some exposure for a particularly nice bit of research we'd done - and st

Marketing hacks that worked. Pic by Steven Depolo

Every company in the world is obsessed with marketing and sales - trying desperately to get in front of potential clients, gain visibility, join the conversa

I recently did a one hour consultation with Stephen Conroy, the owner of cong IT in New York.

Stephen had requested a meeting to give him a feel for what he should be doing in order to promote his new business.

We chatted on Skype and at the end of the hour had covered quite a lot of ground. Poor Stephen had his ear bent by me for most of that time.

But it occurred to me that seeing a real-life consultation that deals not only with good practice (predominantly Internet based, in this case), but also shows the other side of the coin - interaction and thoughts from the business owner himself - might be really interesting to everyone else.

Email marketing intro

Email marketing is a popular and effective online strategy for small businesses (as well as large corporates).

Great marketing ideas that don't involve press releases

If you have been tempted into using an online press release distribution service (free, or otherwise) then I'm here to warn you about the risks.

Search marketers used pr distribution services to quickly spread "news" and articles of dubious quality around the Web. This lead to a huge increase in targeted backlinks that improved organic traffic listings and PageRank in Google.

Essentially, press release distribution services became a great black-hat SEO strategy that worked well - until Google caught on.

How to increase site traffic an conversions. Pic by Tony Alter

Everyone knows that in order to make more money online you either have to increase the volumes of website traffic, or increase conversion rates (or both

Secret to online advertising

Online advertising can help businesses capture new leads and generate sales and revenue almost instantly - but only if they know the secret to effective online ads.

While online ads (in particular, PPC ads) have great potential, it is very difficult to know exactly how to create the perfect ad that reaches the right audience, at the right time.

Internet users are very good at tuning out marketing and advertisements, rendering them all but useless. So getting your online ads wrong, can end up sucking the marketing budget dry with very little ROI (Return On Investment).

getresponse email marketing comparison review

Anyone looking to grow their business using a mailing list will likely want to make use of one of the leading online email marketing services - but which one?

As a business owner, you probably don't have time to set up a free trial on every site around, so it helps to know which one can get you started the easiest.

SME Pals has already done an analysis and comparison review of the top email marketing services, but that analysis doesn't really speak directly to how easy or hard it is for a beginner to set up their own email based campaign.

Drive traffic without SEO

I am an ardent supporter of creating great quality content that ranks well in Google search for marketing purposes.

Recently, however, I have been forced to concede that organic traffic from Google is no longer reliable enough.

Since 2012 Google's search results have been in upheaval, and while the general thrust of the changes are to improve search results and cut out spam, there has been significant collateral damage along the way.

Free email marketing setup guide. Pic by Wayne Stadler

Modern email marketing campaigns, especially from small businesses, need to be able to grow a killer mailing list and deliver awesome emails to the right aud

Marketing explained with cows. Pic by Chris Marchant

It can be a challenge, especially if you're new to the game, understanding what marketing jargon means.