Five (5) ways to increase your business network

I network pretty extensively. I think it is more important than ever to do so during the down economy. When the economy improves and we get busier with work, the amount of time available to devote to networking may diminish. Nevertheless, I am a firm believer in daily marketing and networking.

I am not connected to tens of thousands of people. But, I like to think that the folks I am connected to are real people. When you pay for followers or connect with just anyone, they will likely be fake people or market researchers. I have a small but influential network. I am often asked how I consistently make new connections.

The answer is that I put time into it. It is really that simple. Here are three things I do routinely to increase my business network:

1. Meetings – I invite business people that I meet and dialogue with to join my Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin networks. I send the invitations out as soon as possible. I usually try to get to it within a week of meeting each person. I may meet these connections at trade organization luncheons, trade conferences, training programs, or meetings I coordinated to pitch a service offering.
2. Trade Articles – I let article writers know when I enjoyed an article they wrote. I then invited them to join my Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin networks. I subscribe to Black Enterprise, the Atlanta Tribune, Home Business and Entrepreneurs magazines. I also subscribe to several free electronic news services for business articles. I am particularly interested in business strategy and government contracting. When these news emails arrive, I put them in a folder called Read Me Later. When I have down time, I go through the lists of articles and pdf the ones that I want to read. I then read through them once a week. If I enjoy an article, I immediately go online and post a comment; and I also search for the author on Facebook and try to connect with them.
3. Winners’ Circles – I like to connect with small business owners that win awards and contracts. I learn a great deal from the winners. They obviously have a winning strategy. I find them on Facebook and I congratulate them. I then introduce myself and tell them about my company and that I teach government contracting for the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center. I connect with a lot of great minority owned and women owned small business leaders with this strategy.
4. Alum – I also connect with folks I went to elementary school, high school, college, and graduate school with. I use my old year books. I also peek at each of their online connections to see if there is anyone I remember. You never know where a referral will come from. I think my relationship with school chums is that we will always have that shared experience – i.e. the old neighborhoods, the campuses, and the faculty. These folks are a true extension of my family.
5. Past Colleagues – I worked primarily as a government civil servant for more than 25 years at the federal, state and local government levels. Over the years, I have come to know quite a few really cool folks and have stayed in touch with them. I seek pass co-workers out online and send them invitations to connect.

What about the competition? I have also been asked why I allow competitors into my network. I learn from some competitors and I hope they learn from the information I share online. I realize that some competitors will try to get at your customers via Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. So, to be honest with you, I am not connected to my core customers online to prevent that from happening. I stay in touch with my core customers with email, direct mail, and visits.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

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2 Responses to “Five (5) ways to increase your business network”

  1. Hannah Starkel Says:

    –These are great points Clovia. I especially applaud you for this:

    “I learn from some competitors and I hope they learn from the information I share online.”

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