Like it or loathe it, networking is necessary for your business to thrive.
The more people you know, and the more people that know about your business, the more brand awareness and professional authority you'll have, and the more sales you'll make.
But if you're someone who shudders at the thought of networking, like myself, it's hard to know what steps you can take to boost your brand. It’s usually the environment that causes people to shy away from networking.
Being in a room full of people talking to each other, with noise and commotion all around is enough to make any introvert retreat.
But never fear - there are other ways to network and build your brand.
We've compiled a few different networking methods that you can try, to see which one best fits you, plus a few extra tips for in-person networking, because there's no denying how successful in-person networking can be.
First things first, the introvert's best (and worst) friend: The Internet.
There are a few brilliant apps and websites that you can use to develop your professional network - something invaluable to business owners and any person looking to move up in their career.
Here are a few things we've tried out, along with some tips on how to get the most of them:
Shapr is an app developed to help people network with other professionals, useful for job-hunting, finding or becoming a mentor, or just widening your network.
Try to keep your searches narrow, or you’ll end up with too many contacts to connect with, and you’ll get so overwhelmed you won’t be able to develop any real relationships with them.
Bumble is an app for those looking for friends, professionals, and loooove connections. Bumble Bizz is for those seeking professional contacts.
Before messaging someone with your generic icebreaker, read their profile and refer to it in your message - for a truer connection.
When arranging a meeting with someone, it’s a good idea to see if you can get a group of you to go together - not only for safety, but so there’s not so much pressure on just the two of you.
In my opinion, LinkedIn is a social media platform that every professional should have - whether they’re employed, in-between jobs, unemployed, freelance or self-employed. (groups and personal account).
Make sure your profile is fully completed - not just because it looks so much better, but it helps provide context for anyone you might connect with, and can help more people find you.
Write posts regularly and comment on other people’s.
Join some groups. Groups on LinkedIn aren’t what they used to be, but they can still be useful in getting some like-minded people together.
Plus you can see who else is attending the events you might be going to, so you don’t have to go alone.
So many of us read lots of industry blogs, but rarely leave comments on what we’ve read, even though we have insights. Share your thoughts - you could start an interesting conversation with a fellow reader.
Taking part in webinars can be fruitful, and engaging with the presenters can get you valuable connections.
But the best way to network with webinars is by hosting them yourself. This sounds daunting, but if you have a subject that you’re confident about, it’s a great way to showcase your skills and knowledge, and help out other people in the process.
Asking for help is NOT a weakness. It’s a strength. And your friends and colleagues might have more contacts that would be beneficial to you than you realise.
Why not arrange a ‘bring a friend’ night out? You won’t feel as pressured, as you’ll know a bunch of people there.
Or you could go to a networking event with your friend, so you’re not just standing awkwardly by yourself between plucking up the courage to talk to someone new.
Writing blogs is a great way to network - people read them, and post comments, and you can show your skills even further by responding.
Even better is asking for guest blogs, or asking someone if you can guest-write a blog post for them.
Hopefully, now you’re feeling pumped to get introvertedly networking!
If you still need a bit of a boost, never fear!
Here’s a few more top tips to get you revved-up:
If attending an industry event, try to book meetings in advance, even if they are just for a coffee and a catch-up.
Prepare questions. People like to talk about themselves. And prepare to answer questions. Not with full-on monologues, but just a few points that you might want to mention.
A few questions you could ask are: ‘how did you get involved in ___?’, ‘what do you think of ____?’, ‘have you been to ___ before?’
Set yourself goals, just like any other business objective. And treat yourself when you hit your target!
Don’t forget about who you already know. To keep a decent network, you need to keep your existing contacts in touch. Arrange follow-ups every now and then.
Don’t just throw your business card into a bowl. They’re worth money to you, why give them away for nothing? Only give them to people you think you’ll actually be in contact with later down the line.
Prepare your elevator pitch: one or two sentences to describe what you do and what makes you unique. You want to be unique so you stand out to whomever you’re talking to. Don’t just be yet another entrepreneur - be different, and be yourself.
Make the first step. The hardest part. You’re allowed to be nervous - chances are, they are, too. But someone has to take the first step. Prepare your opener, and just do it.
There we go, those are our hints and tips for introverted entrepreneurs to help you build your network.
If there’s any other tips that you think we should mention, pop them in the comments below, or if you’re still not keen on networking, leave us a comment and we’ll see how we can help.
Now get out there, and get networking!