Creating a strong network is often described as one of the most valuable investments that you can make in the success of your business. So we decided to have a closer look at how you can build a network that will work for you.

1. What do you want to achieve?

Before you go about the process of building your network, it’s probably best to think about what you’d like to get out of it. More clients? Market understanding? Professional support? Once you have defined your goals we suggest you use them as a guide to areas and people of interest rather than as a restrictive road map of who to contact and when.

2. How are you going to build your network?

Building a network is all about communication, and there are a variety of ways to introduce yourself. You’ll need to match the most appropriate method to the person you’re trying to connect with. Your options include (but are not limited to): email; cold calling; networking events; referrals from other contacts; and more.

Try to make sure that any communication is focused on the person you are reaching out to – not on yourself. This is especially true with face to face networking. Take the opportunity to focus on getting a thorough understanding of what people do: including their problems; needs; and concerns. This will give you the information you will need to make follow up communications meaningful and relevant.

3. How do you turn a contact into a connection?

Once you have made contact, it’s important to follow up and build the relationship. Use the information you have already gained to add value and establish relevance. For example you can demonstrate your understanding by sharing an article that relates to a conversation you had with your contact about a business concern.

As you are building a relationship it’s best to avoid any sales reference and stay relevant to your contact and the information they have shared with you. This initial contact can then be developed into an opportunity to sit down for coffee or lunch. And the potential to stay in touch regularly.

Networking is a good investment but it can take time. Invest your time in building strong relationships today and you can network your way towards achieving your goals in the future.