How to Make Networking Work for You

| April 5, 2024

Imagine you're at a networking event, and you strike up a conversation with someone who later becomes your biggest client. This isn't luck; it's the art of making networking work for you.

Networking is not just about exchanging business cards; it's about creating connections that can take you and your business to new heights.

But how do you identify who to connect with and what to say? And, perhaps more importantly, how can you guarantee these connections actually turn into fruitful relationships?

Let's explore how to navigate networking effectively, turning new introductions into meaningful connections and strategic partnerships.

The Power of Networking

Understanding and utilizing the power of networking can open doors to growth and opportunities for your company. As you’ve probably heard before, it's all about who you know as well as who knows you! And how you manage these relationships truly counts.

Mastering networking etiquette is your first step toward making a lasting impression. Whether it's a firm handshake or a timely and friendly follow-up email, these small gestures set the stage for networking success.

The benefits of networking go beyond mere connections. Networking creates opportunities to share knowledge, gain insights into industry trends, and foster partnerships that can propel your business forward. In order to be able to take advantage of these benefits, you need effective networking strategies that align with your business goals. Tailoring your approach to different settings and personalities can significantly improve the quality of your interactions.

Ready to start your networking journey? Register for Small Business Expo!

Rethinking Networking: More Than Just Business Cards

Effective networking goes far beyond 60-second elevator pitches accompanied by the exchange of business cards. Authentic networking requires a mindset focused on genuine relationship building and fostering these new connections. Here's how you can make every interaction count and leave a lasting impression:

  1. Prioritize Relationship Building: Focus on the long-term gains of nurturing relationships rather than immediate benefits. In addition to just meeting new people, more importantly, it’s earning trust and making a connection with you valuable to the other party too.
  2. Engage in Strategic Conversations: Every conversation is an opportunity to learn and share insights. Approach discussions with curiosity and the intention to add value. This mindset facilitates meaningful interactions that resonate well beyond the initial meeting.
  3. Cultivate Authentic Connections: Authenticity is at the core of memorable relationships. Let your genuine interest in others' success drive your networking efforts. This authenticity encourages reciprocation and builds a strong foundation for future collaborations.

Rethinking networking in this way transforms it from a transactional activity into a strategic, fulfilling relationship-building practice. It's how you make meaningful interactions the norm, setting the stage for a thriving professional network.

The Mindset Shift: From Dreading to Valuing Networking

Shifting your mindset from dreading to valuing networking can transform it into one of the most powerful tools in your business growth arsenal. Overcoming fear starts with understanding the networking mindset, a perspective that sees beyond handshakes to the immense potential of forming valuable relationships. It's more than just collecting contacts, it's fostering connections that can open doors you never knew existed.

To truly value relationships, you must first see the networking benefits. Each interaction is an opportunity to learn, to share, and to grow. It's about creating a mutual exchange that enriches both parties. This approach transforms networking from a challenge into a valuable aspect of your business strategy.

Embracing connections means stepping out of your comfort zone with confidence, knowing that each person you meet could be a key piece in the puzzle of your business's success. By adopting a networking mindset, you start to see every event and interaction not as a challenging task but as a stepping stone towards achieving your business goals.

Preparation is Key: Setting Goals for Networking Events

Before stepping into any networking event, it's important to set clear, strategic goals to make sure your time is well-spent and productive. Effective goal setting and event preparation can transform your networking strategy, turning quick encounters into fruitful connections. Here's how to approach it:

  1. Define Your Objectives: Know what you're after—whether it's finding potential clients, seeking mentors, or scouting for partners. Having clear objectives will guide your interactions and help you measure the event's success.
  2. Create Your Elevator Pitch: Your elevator pitch is your brief, persuasive speech that sparks interest in what you and your business does and who you do it for. It should be concise, compelling, and tailored to your audience. This preparation ensures you're ready to present yourself confidently, concisely, and memorably.
  3. Identify Key Attendees: Research the attendees and decide who you want to connect with. This step is critical in building a targeted networking strategy that focuses on connection building with the right individuals.

Building Lasting Connections: Strategies for Effective Follow-Up

Making a meaningful impression at networking events is just the beginning. The follow-up and next steps are what truly cements lasting business relationships. After exchanging business cards or LinkedIn connections, your next steps are vital. The art of follow-up is not just about reminding others of your existence but about showing genuine interest and value in the potential relationship.

Strategy Emotion Invoked
Personalized emails Appreciation, Respect
Coffee meetings Friendship, Trust
Thank you notes Gratitude, Thoughtfulness

Sending personalized emails demonstrates that you listened and are interested in what the other party has to say. It's a direct line to showing you value the connection beyond the event. Setting up coffee meetings, on the other hand, takes it a step further by investing your time to deepen the relationship. Finally, never underestimate the power of a handwritten thank-you note. It's a classic, yet powerful way to stand out and show your appreciation.

Leveraging Your Network: Nurturing Relationships and Finding Opportunities

Once you've built a solid foundation of connections, it's critical to strategically nurture these relationships and scout for opportunities that benefit both parties. Relationship building isn't a one-off task; it's an ongoing process that requires attention and intentionality. By focusing on connection nurturing and opportunity seeking, you create a common ground for collaboration and growth.

Here are three key networking strategies to leverage your network effectively:

  • Regular Check-Ins: Don't let your connections grow cold. Schedule periodic updates or coffee chats to keep the relationship warm and stay top of mind. This consistent effort in building rapport goes a long way in cementing trust.
  • Share Valuable Insights: Be the connector. Share articles, reports, or even leads that might be beneficial to your contacts. By adding value without expecting anything in return, you're seen as a resourceful and reliable partner.
  • Seek Mutually Beneficial Opportunities: Keep your ears open for opportunities that could benefit your contacts. Introducing two connections can lead to synergistic outcomes, reinforcing your role as a key player in your network and beyond.

Your Networking Journey Begins Now

Having explored how to nurture and leverage your network, it's now time to begin your new networking journey. By applying these networking strategies and tips, you're setting the stage for meaningful connections that can greatly contribute to your business's growth.

Networking isn't just about collecting contacts; it's about cultivating relationships that offer mutual benefits. With each interaction, you're not merely expanding your network; you're also laying the groundwork for future collaborations and opportunities. Keep in mind the importance of authenticity and value-addition in every conversation. These elements are key to ensuring your networking efforts yield the desired benefits.

As you move forward, always be open to learning and adapting. The landscape of networking is ever-evolving, and so should your approach. By staying informed and responsive to changes, you'll find your networking growth accelerating, bringing you closer to your desired business and personal success.

About The Author


Kelly Berry is a dynamic leader with a rich background in strategic operations and growth marketing, boasting over 20 years of experience. As the Vice President of Operations at Fitness Revolution, she has driven significant productivity and client growth through innovative strategies. Kelly's entrepreneurial spirit shines as the co-founder of Entrepreneur's Edge, where she addresses the marketing needs of small businesses. Her expertise extends to creating impactful strategic planning processes and performance monitoring systems, demonstrating her ability to lead and innovate in challenging environments. With an MBA from Bellarmine University and a BA in Marketing and Advertising from Western Kentucky University, Kelly combines academic knowledge with practical experience. Passionate about health and wellness, she actively participates in ultra-running, mountain biking, and triathlons, embodying the same principles of discipline and resilience she advocates in her professional life.