While a job seeker’s career goals will look different from an entrepreneur, this core networking truth remains: Relationships are everything.
In this article, I’ll explore networking for entrepreneurs, including what makes a successful strategy and six must-do networking tips and tricks. But first…
Why is networking important for entrepreneurs?
Networking increases brand visibility
Grow your business by introducing potential clients, investors, and supporters to your overall vision and brand. Early meetings with industry professionals and business owners who have walked a similar path can provide insights and help you avoid common pitfalls.
Building connections is an opportunity to showcase your brand and practice your elevator pitch. The more you get your brand in front of people, the more familiar your business becomes. And that recognition can lead to the adoption of your product or service as well as referrals. The Mere Exposure Effect backs this up—suggesting that the more familiar we are with something, the more we like it.
After all, no matter how good your idea is, you need buy-in.
Collaborators, supporters, and investors matter for business growth—and those relationships are formed by networking with key players.
Networking will skyrocket your entrepreneurial growth
Sometimes networking begins before you even realize it.
In his book “The Minimalist Entrepreneur,” author Sahil Lavingia tells a story about a Redditor named Sol who joined the subreddit “r/fitness” to find community and share his learnings during his own health journey.
Over time, he built relationships and eventually became a co-moderator of the group. After the same questions continued to pop up about supplements, Sol and his fellow moderator Kurtis saw a business opportunity.
Examine.com was born— “a website where people could find the kind of free, unbiased, up-to-date research and information on nutrition and supplements.”
They didn’t immediately sell anything but continued to build relationships.
And, because of their dedication and involvement in the subreddit, they had a loyal audience who not only promoted their website but also guided their business decisions.
A few years later, they created their first product, making 3,000 sales by the end of the launch—all thanks to their networking and community-building groundwork.
In the digital age, there is no shortage of opportunities to connect with like-minded people in any industry.
Networking can help you access resources
If you’re a new entrepreneur, you may have encountered stumbling blocks when expanding your business due to a lack of resources.
Networking could be the missing link. By building mutually beneficial relationships, you can share ideas, advice, and connections.
Your fellow entrepreneur may know a talented virtual assistant, someone who can provide affordable website support, or a shared community that helps you solve a particular problem.
Just remember, networking is a two-way street—you should be giving as much as you’re getting.
Networking for entrepreneurs: 6 ways to connect and collaborate
Beyond attracting early adopters and potential investors, networking is essential to build a community of fellow entrepreneurs. And all of these different connections will help you grow your business. Here’s how to meet the right folks.
1. Attend conferences, workshops, and industry events
If you have a product, setting up a stand is a great way to showcase and sell your product directly to potential buyers, investors, and wholesalers.
Workshops offer the opportunity to meet other founders and solve common business challenges. You’ll learn more from your industry and potentially make lasting connections.
2. Connect with other entrepreneurs through social media
LinkedIn, in particular, is the holy grail of networking.
Remember, people are busy. As a professional social media platform, LinkedIn was specifically designed for business networking. If you have your eye on a potential connection, be thoughtful about why you want to connect before sending a request. What can you offer that would be helpful? This will help you write a message that 1) provides real value to the other person, and 2) makes it more likely that they’ll respond and accept your request.
Once you’ve found your unique selling point, start by complimenting their work or LinkedIn content. If you have a mutual connection with them, mention that.
Personalize your message and end with a question as an invitation to keep the conversation going. Once they’ve accepted your request, follow up and expand your topic of conversation. Make sure you invest time in building a relationship BEFORE you make an ask. Asking for a favor too early could mean the end of a professional relationship.
3. Get involved in online communities
Online communities like Reddit, Discord, and TikTok are a great way to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, regardless of where they are in the world. Special mentions include the Entrepreneur subreddit, the Furlough Community Discord channel and the #businesstok hashtag on TikTok. All three communities successfully allow members to connect, learn about each other’s businesses, and share knowledge.
Suppose your business is purely online or you’re dealing with an international product. In that case, online communities can be an ingenious way to find local partners and expand your product or service beyond your geographical region.
Engage in the right online community by finding one that focuses on your business niche. It’s important not to use online communities as promotion dumps, as this will either make you sound spammy or else get you banned from the group.
Instead, use online communities to participate in discussions, learn more about your craft, and connect with other entrepreneurs.
4. Follow up as soon as possible
Unlike cold email etiquette, when meeting another entrepreneur—be it online or at a conference—immediately following up with them is the way to go. This shows that you’re serious about the connection, and by extension, any potential business that you may do together.
Start your follow-up message by mentioning the topic you discussed during the event or online interaction. One good way to continue the conversation is to offer help or ask for a meeting. Suggest a coffee or Zoom call for 20 minutes over lunch one afternoon. Setting up this second face-to-face/virtual conversation is a good way to solidify the relationship.
5. Find a mentor
For budding entrepreneurs, mentors can serve as your north star when it comes to everything business-related, including networking. A mentor who has gone through the ups and downs of the business world not only relates to your experience but also helps you avoid common mistakes. Not only that, an experienced mentor who recognizes your potential may introduce you to other meaningful connections
If you have your eye on an experienced entrepreneur you want to have as a mentor, it’s important to nurture a relationship with them before asking them to be your mentor. Before approaching someone about mentorship, consider whether their personality, experience, and mentoring style are a good fit.
Being authentic in your business actions goes a long way toward building lasting connections and a network of like-minded individuals. This goes for in-person and online.
In addition to authenticity, enthusiasm helps build strong business relationships. The right mindset will inspire others to contribute their own ideas, leading to innovative and productive collaborations. Enthusiasm is contagious.
Establishing a genuine connection is based on active listening. When networking, focus on being yourself. Share your story and vision—both your successes AND challenges. Listen to what other entrepreneurs say, ask questions, and contribute to the conversation. Don’t try to force a connection, as this can do more harm than good. Instead, come ready to learn, give back, and leave a memorable impression on others.
Networking is a must in today’s business landscape
Invest your time with people. You’ll not only benefit in the short term, but you’ll build your legacy, one connection at a time.