The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the best way to make fruitful connections?” is written by Alexander Goldstein, founder and CEO of Eligo Energy.
You’ve built your company, established a good customer base, and things seem to be going well. But as an entrepreneur, you should always be looking for the next step up. You’ve covered all of your bases, so what else can you do to propel your business forward?
It’s all about networking. Connecting with those in your industry and being a presence in that community can do wonders to grow your business and make sure that new and exciting opportunities come your way.
Here are some things you can do to make meaningful relationships that will propel your business forward:
Be a leader
This one is going to take some time, but it’s worth the investment to establish yourself as a leader within your field. Have a clear point of view on the state of the market and what could be done to improve the industry. Make these thoughts known in public forums and demonstrate the ways in which your company is pushing these ideas forward. Once you do this, be accessible to those who want to engage you in discussion. Establishing this reputation will cause other like-minded individuals to flock to you, creating ample opportunity to form new connections.
If you’ve got your eye on a particularly valuable contact, but can’t seem to figure out the best way to approach it, use your existing network to your advantage. Think hard about who you may know who can help you make that connection. Once you’ve found the right candidate, explain your situation to him or her and ask for an introduction. Not only will you gain the valuable contact that you’ve been striving for, but a third-party endorsement will go a long way toward establishing your reputation with your newfound contact.
So many people network by collecting as many cards as they possibly can, only to stuff them away in a spare drawer and pull them out when they need something. Or worse: They’ll immediately spam all of their new contacts with emails as soon as they get home. This is probably the worst strategy you could possibly use for building connections and will certainly not lead to any meaningful relationships. Instead, be thoughtful about your goals for each new contact you establish and make deliberate moves to strengthen your relationships with those people.
This, again, is where most people drop the ball. They find a great contact, make the connection, and then let the budding relationship slowly die because they fail to check in and nurture it. The best way to avoid letting all of that hard work go to waste is to keep a log of your contacts, making sure to include relevant personal information and potential opportunities, and then create a follow-up schedule to check in with each one. They’ll appreciate the follow through and may even help you to build your network as a result.