Traditional networking is mostly ineffective. We’re either time poor and don’t know where to find quality connections, or we leave a networking event with a stack of business cards but no solid relationships. Here are nine unconventional strategies to nurture a powerful network.
1. Do the work.
No magic fairy will wave her wand and give you quality, reliable contacts in a short time. I have a saying: “You can get rich quick, but nobody gets wealthy quick.” Having a great network is wealth. Creating an extensive valuable network will not happen overnight or even quickly. You can speed things up attending the right kind of events.
One reason I created 10X Growth Con—a large networking event for entrepreneurs—was to bring like-minded people together. Just attending an event will not create a network. You must still do the work: Reach out, be social and have sales skills. The right event can exponentially enlarge your network quickly and solidify your contacts by following up frequently and staying in touch.
2. Become your best self.
First, identify the ideal person you would want to do business with from a philosophical, character and principled perspective.
Second, become that person. We attract who we become. To have an ideal network, first become your ideal self. Work harder on yourself than your job. Life is never about what we get; it’s about who we become. When networking, don’t ask yourself, What am I getting? Remember who you’re becoming.
Third, connect to people with similar interests using all mediums. The best thing you can do is grow your social media network while working hard on becoming the ideal person who you want to attract.
As you become more attuned and grow your online audience, you’ll attract incredible people who are ideal for your long-term business relationships. When it does, you’ll be the right person in the right place with the right network.
3. Meet strangers.
One of the easiest ways to meet new people is a strategy I employed when I had almost nothing: taking strangers out to lunches or dinners.
In 2015, I did that every single week and met eight new people at a group dinner. Those dinners built an amazing network that contributed to nearly a million dollars in revenue—without spending a dime on “advertising.”
I got to know these folks much better than any other networking format that I knew of. Plus, it’s super affordable.
4. Give instead of take.
I try to provide as much value as possible to people in my network without asking for anything in return. In the beginning of a new relationship, you have to earn the right to have a genuine relationship. The only way you can do that is by giving an insane amount of value.
I’ll cold email heroes of mine suggesting ways they can make more sales. I’ll make introductions to people I know can help them. I’ll share what’s been working in my own business and encourage them to copy it—all while asking for nothing in return. That’s how you get people’s attention.
It’s amazing how those same individuals proactively try to help you. Doing it this way helped me build a network of highly successful friends and mentors, which in turn helped me build a million-dollar business.
5. Make a life-changing introduction.
My entire world changed when I learned that networking was not about building my database but about being the gateway to another great relationship. Every time I meet someone new, I’ve trained myself to ask the question, Whom can I introduce this person to that could change their life?
This goes so much beyond having a scorecard for business or personal favors; it instantly deepens the personal relationship, which is the foundation of an awesome network. So ask yourself the question, What introduction can I make that will change someone’s life?
6. Invest in your people portfolio.
Because your network is your net worth, invest in it like a financial portfolio. That means toxic people need removing. Building a good relationship with a bad person is impossible. The right network will be like blue chip, ever-increasing dividend stocks.
There should never be a reason to keep score. Be willing to invest. Give to the relationship first and in earnest. Involve families and host a gathering at your home. The opportunity to create authentic depth in a relationship is irreplaceable and cannot be achieved with unlimited office meetings.
One example is our business relationship with Amazon. We invested the effort to learn about their new priorities and results they’d need to engage with us. We had mutual goals and built a successful inaugural event around their new project.
7. Treat connections like neighbors.
Before the 1980s, most people lived in tightly knit communities where knowing your neighbor was a given. Everyone was expected to contribute to the success of the village. But this concept is slipping away as social networks revolutionize how we communicate. We get competitive, only revealing certain aspects of ourselves—especially our successes.
I nurture my connections by treating them like neighbors. As I get human with them, they reciprocate my efforts. It’s helped me in all areas of life and business. My community now contains all the connections I need.
The key is to offer value before asking for help. For example, Ryan Foland is the master of TEDx Talks. But before he mentored me about the subject, I gave him an idea that could potentially increase his business revenue and offered to help execute it. That’s how villages and communities work.
—Sweta Patel, a startup marketing advisor and founder of Silicon Valley Startup Marketing who has consulted for more than 200 early-stage startups and high-growth companies. Follow Sweta on Facebook and Instagram
8. Give back.
For me, wearing a nametag and chitchatting at networking events feels like the dreaded public speaking class in high school. It fills me with dread, and I feel like a sleazy car salesman. If you’re not the networking, nametag-wearing type, use my preferred back-door method. Everybody knows somebody, and it’s great fun to give back to your community.
Get involved. I coach my son’s soccer and little league teams. I’ll donate a free landscape design to raise money at auction. I’ll help a good client with their cause.
Don’t just donate money or attend a stuffy fundraiser dinner. Roll up your sleeves and serve. Word-of-mouth spreads.
The Oracles is an invitation-only brain trust comprising the world’s leading entrepreneurs who share their top advice and success strategies to help others grow their business, live a better life, and achieve success faster.