The one where we learn to build and leverage our network
AKA networking for people who hate networking
I had an incredible week this week, and I can’t wait to share with you (soon!) why this week was so great. This past month has been a huge reflection on the importance of building and leveraging a network when you need them.
I’m not a huge fan of networking. I love going to events, but when it comes to mingling, I am much more comfortable staying within my comfort zone and a small bubble of people I already know. With that said, over my 7 years of being a Shopify Partner, I’ve had to learn to let a little bit of that go–and I’m glad I did.
There are so many benefits to expanding your network - new friends, new potential clients or customers, new partnerships - but I know that entering a new unknown space can be daunting, or just networking in general can feel slimy.
So let’s make it not slimy.
You define what it means to network. I know a guy who was trying to get me to go to these small business networking events that happen at 7 AM every Thursday morning. First off, I’m barely out of bed at 7. Second, I always found these types of meetings to be everyone “supporting” each other by focusing on how they can get potential new customers out of them. Not really my thing. But the good news is it doesn’t have to be. You define what your network is and how you network. I choose to attend Shopify in-person events and spend most of my time on Twitter. You may choose to avoid all in-person events or only go to in-person events. Those events could be niche (like mine) or more broad (like an alumni event). Sample your opportunities and see which ones you like best.
Less is more. There’s likely a good chance that building a Rolodex of names is not really what you’re going for. (If it is, then great! Carry on.) It’s better to focus on events or opportunities that will get you higher quality customers or partnerships vs. attending every trade show under the sun and collecting business cards like they’re Pokémon cards. If there is a certain type of partner or customer you’re going after, focus on events or opportunities that cater to meeting those individuals or companies. Staying more focused will keep you from burning out.
Relationships have to be nurtured. Don’t collect information and then never follow up. If at an in-person event, try to follow up the next business day so the person or company you met will connect you to the event, as they likely met a number of others as well. I always find the best relationships built within my network are those that formed more organically, vs. immediately focusing on selling. The selling will come naturally once you’ve established rapport.
Ask for connections to your network’s network. There are some people in your life who are true connectors and have this HUGE network of people waiting to be introduced. (I envy these people!) If you’re looking for a particular sort of contact or connection, ask your network for an introduction. Most are happy to make intros where appropriate. (I will say I always appreciate the heads up and permission for an introduction before one is made, as I don’t like having to have the awkward “thanks for the intro but I’m not interested” conversation from a cold intro.)
Networking doesn’t have to suck. I turned it into building an awesome group of friends with whom I can learn from and grow.
Until next week,