Mastering The Art of Networking

In this article, learn why networking is important, where to network and how to network. Eventually, you will learn how to master the valuable art of networking.

Simply put, networking is an art of building relationships. It can be with anybody for any purpose. For an early stage startup, you as an entrepreneur would need to network with a lot of people like investors, mentors and the market. But, you also need to work on your product/service. In such times, networking will seem unnecessary. Yet, as you will see, networking is essential for your startup to succeed. Again, with so many options available, it can be difficult to select the best method of networking.

Why networking is important?

You can find your mentor
Wish there were someone who has passed all the difficulties of building a startup you are having? A mentor is the perfect person for you. Your mentor can give you essential advice on how to move on with your startup. He/she can also help you find potential investors and customers.

Networking is the key to finding your mentor. The only way someone will guide you to success is if you reach him/her. By being an effective networker, you can find your guru. Bill Gates met Warren Buffett in a family gathering. After that meeting Buffet became Gates mentor, the former giving the latter useful advice on prioritization and time management.

You can meet potential investors
Funding is important for your startup. According to a poll, 29% of startups fail for insufficient funding. You need funding to develop your product/service, sell it to customers and maintain operations.

Investors are busy people. They come upon a lot of potential startup pitches. The only way you can attract their attention is by making your company look exceptional. And only skillful networking can help you with that.

You can build up your team
In this modern world, doing stuffs by yourself is impossible. Startups are not exception. They are basically a team of few people who have this bold vision of changing the world. The only way to succeed is for all the members of the team to work cohesively with each other and with the same goal.

Finding people with the same vision as you is difficult. Here is where networking saves the day. By reaching out to potential people and acquainting with similar minded people, you can gather people to buy your idea and work with you.

You can find customers
There are thousands and thousands of businesses around the globe, all trying to capture the attention of customers. And cliche advertisements won’t help you attract customers. What you need is networking- building valuable relationships with your customers. You expose your business to potential customers through networking which in turn can influence him/her and others to buy your product/service.

You can connect with fellow startups
Who else can empathize with you more than someone going through the same phase you are going? Only another startup founder can. He/she is probably facing the same problems as you. Sharing problems with each other, you can solve their problems and yours as well. Moreover, they can provide you with valuable advice as well.

Where to network?

In a digital world where we are ever connected, networking is literally in the tip of your fingers. However, online networking is not enough. To master the art of networking, you need to network both online and offline. Here are some places where you can start networking.

LinkedIn: A request from a stranger on Facebook is creepy. You don’t want to appear as a stalker to someone you want help from. That’s where LinkedIn comes. As it is more professional, the person whom you want to network with will be able to trust you more than he/she can do it on Facebook.
However, it can also be creepy to accept a request from LinkedIn as well. So at first, you must build up your profile. That way you will let people know who you are. Second, you just can’t send a connection request. That is weird as well.

When you send a request for connection to someone on LinkedIn, you also have the option to send a note. Use that well. Tell that person why do you want to connect with him/her. It can be for asking for advice or anything. But do mention it.

Another thing is that mere getting accepted to a connection doesn’t mean you have networked well. You must follow up. Try to set up a face-to-face meeting. This will develop trust.

Networking events: Networking events offer a wide range of opportunities to network. Not only can you meet experts but also you can meet peers and sometimes co-founders. UBER co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp met at a tech conference in Paris. From there the idea of the ride sharing app grew. A lot of networking activities take place now a days. Just search on Facebook and you will find plenty. There is also a separate filter for networking events in Facebook Events. So searching for networking events has never been easier.
Most networking events consist of experts delivering speeches. Some may include group activities as well. However, passive participation won’t guarantee success. You must actively search for peers with interest similar to yours. Connect with them and follow up soon. The same thing goes when connecting with the experts. Go to them, talk a bit about yourself and your business, hand them your business card and request for a follow up.

Coworking spaces: Coworking spaces allow you to work on rented space. There will be other entrepreneurs as well who will be working on that space. Thus, co-working spaces give you ample scope to network. You can get help from fellow entrepreneurs and give help as well. You can also build good relationships.
There are a lot of coworking spaces out there. YY Goshti provides coworking spaces for startups with flexible timings and affordable packages. You can try out other coworking spaces including Shuru Campus, Moar, Office Suites and HIVE.

Trade associations: Trade associations help you bond with people engaged in your trade. Hence, you can meet people who have experience plus people who are just starting up just like you. So a trade association can be a vital source of networking.
Trade associations often hold gatherings and other events frequently or at certain intervals. Try to participate in these events. Just like networking events, you must be an active networker. Constantly seek out people whom you think who can help you. Approach them, tell them about your business, give them your business card and follow up.

Facebook groups:
Facebook groups allow you to access a community of similar minded people. There are a lot of Facebook groups now a days catering to specific needs. These groups can provide you with advice, help you find raw materials and even help you to find team members.

Tips for networking:

Networking can be your make or break situation. You can either make a valuable connection or you can screw right up. To master the art of networking, here are some tips that you should follow:

Before heading out to give a connection request to someone on LinkedIn or going to a networking event or any other cases, PLAN.

Know about the person you wish to connect with. Learn about the person, his/her work history, achievements and experience.

Give before you take. Try to offer something of value to the person you wish to network before asking something in return.

Make the person know what you want properly.

After the meeting is over, follow up.

Instead of the usual coffee dates, you can write an email to that person after a few days. Thank him/her for the time given and you can share articles he/she might find useful.

Connect both online and offline.

Networking is an art. An art that takes a lot of preparation and skills. You cannot succeed always but if you do, you will thank your networking skills for helping your startup to grow. So work carefully on your networking skills and do write to us if you have succeeded using any of the tips mentioned above.

Happy networking!