For a small business, a solid network can be a source of quality referrals, great advice, and lifelong business partnerships. Most small business owners we chat with attend multiple conferences, networking meet-ups, social groups to further develop their networks. But having access to a network is meaningless if you're not building strong, genuine relationships with members of the network. Here's what our small business leaders are doing to make sure they optimize every network opportunity.
This has a double impact. Why?
Thank You emails have one of the highest open rates of all the "cold" emails that you can send. One study saw a 67% open rate for Thank You emails (regular email campaigns average about a 13% open rate). Mailchimp (the email marketing tool) also found that email subject lines that include the keywords "Thank You" have the most significant positive impact on open rates, relative to other word pairs.
On top of encouraging your new networking lead to engage by opening your email, sending a Thank You email quickly goes a long way when it comes to staying front-of-mind. The general rule of thumb is to follow up within an hour -- past that first hour, you are 10x less likely to get an engagement.
So if you've spent time and energy making a connection with a new networking opportunity, don't let that effort go to waste by missing your follow ups. Thank them, and be quick about it!
Networking can be exhausting, and for more introverted folks, it can also feel a little nerve-wracking. I'll let Natalie tell her own story, but my challenge for those who dislike networking: make a game of it the way Natalie did!
There are three main forms of networking: operational, personal, and strategic:
Operational networking is your internal network; your team. The goal of building and enhancing this network is to make sure work is done efficiently and smoothly. These relationships are kept up with frequent communication and shared goals.
Personal networking is your network to further your own personal and professional goals. These are the folks you connect with to learn more about other industries, other professional domains. They give you new perspectives that can help you be a better leader, manager, or employee. Your personal networks are the ones with the greatest referral potential because they expand your reach the most.
Strategic networking is your network of mentors, higher-ups and stakeholders, and they help you figure out your future priorities and challenges to give you a long-term perspective. They may overlap with your personal network, but they have the added advantage of being empowered to take action within your business.
A powerful network contains individuals from all three categories -- you want to be able to work efficiently (a strong operational network), you want to be able learn from other industries (a strong personal network), and you want to be able to anticipate challenges before they arise (a strong strategic network).
Evaluate your network: are you missing anything?
Strong network partnerships emerge when the both of you have something to contribute to the business relationship: advice, referrals, feedback, or even a shared client.
At its core, you want to create a mutually beneficial relationship when you network with someone. There is no immediate sale to be made, but ideally, the both of you will leave the conversation knowing exactly how the other can support your personal or professional goals.
All of our tips today came directly from readers and contributors to our Small Business Community Tips newsletter. This is a newsletter community for small business owners and employees to ask questions and get answers from their peers. If you like what you've read and would like to contribute questions and tips, and read more future issues, click here to join the newsletter.