As we form business connections, many networking newbies often jump straight into the mode of figuring out how to book someone as a new client or to try to sell a product to a new connection. More experienced folks realize that networking is more about building long term relationships rather than looking for a quick buck. It’s one of the things that Dave talks about in his book. Folks are likely to do business with someone they know, like, and trust, and by giving freely and building relationships over the long term, you’ll become someone who is known, liked, and trusted.
We usually think of this being within our “usual” spheres. Lawyers will network with others in the legal profession. Educators will network with other educators. Marketers connect with other marketing folks. While there’s value in networking within your space, one should also look for new connections from a broader world.
Don’t network too narrowly!
I’ve had several interesting personal and business relationships develop when I’ve connected with and built relationships with people who (at first glance) might seem to have almost nothing in common with myself. As a photographer with a background in technology, I’m also interested in connections in other verticals.
Several years ago I “met” an secretary for a large marketing agency on Twitter via a conversation with a mutual friend. Over a period of four years we got to know each other a bit, purely online. She switched careers at one point and connected me with one of her new clients, an opportunity that led to me receiving an expenses-paid trip to Alaska, a bunch of camera gear, and an opportunity to work with and help tell a very interesting story from that camera company.
Why Network Widely?
We probably could accept the simple explanation that more connections are good and that a wider network thus becomes a better thing, but there’s another good reason to cast a wide net when building a network: it allows you to become the expert for those people outside your space.
When you connect inside your niche, your locality, your industry, or another narrow(ish) realm, you’re one of many. When you connect outside that space, you can become the go-to person for your specialty. When I network in photography and related circles, I’m one of many photographers. When I connect with an author, or a contractor, or an insurance agent, I’m the photographer.
This isn’t just one-on-one connections, either. Do you speak? Instead of speaking at the usual events in your industry, identify how you can give a helpful talk to a conference or meetup for another industry.
Cast your networking net widely and you can provide help to a wide range of others while making interesting connections with a broad set of individuals. Meet more people, help more people, learn from more people, and you’ll find more people ready to do the same for you.
Aaron Hockley is a photographer with a background in technology who spends his time mixing those two worlds. He publishes WP Photographers as a resource for WordPress and photography and can be found chatting frequently on Twitter.