The worst time to build a network is when you need it. People can sense it if you’re trying to connect with them because you need something from them. On the other hand, when you’re connecting with people with an eye on helping them, or because you genuinely want to connect with them, people are much more likely to be receptive.
That’s why it makes so much sense to build your B2B network before you need it. Invest time in your network long before you need anything from your network.
How do you do it?
Focus on Connectors
Focus on people who could connect you with the people who could make the biggest difference on your business, or who could refer you to those people.
For example, let’s say you’re a start-up company looking for venture capital funding. You should start building your funding network MONTHS before you need funding.
Connect with people who’ve been funded in the past. Connect with low-level venture capital guys. Connect with anyone in the local start-up scene who could help you meet potential investors.
If you’re an employee looking for a job, then connect with recruiters, headhunters, employers, companies and anyone you know working for the company(s) you want to work for.
Focus on connectors and lay the groundwork early.
Deposit in the Favor Bank
Retweet for people. Connect people with others who could help advance their careers. Answer questions for others. If others are doing a project in your area of expertise, give them free advice.
Build a sense of goodwill in your community, even if you can’t see how it’ll pay off yet. Build goodwill when you don’t need anything from people. Deposit in your favor bank today. This way, you’ll have plenty of “cash” to draw on when you do need a favor.
Use B2B Social Networks to Promote In-Person Events
Try to host a dinner party, a meetup, a talk or any other kind of gathering once a month, in person.
Use online B2B social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Meetup to help promote these events. Or use them to send one on one invites if you’re doing something more personal.
Hosting in-person events helps you build a lot of credibility and real world connections. Online social tools make managing events a lot easier.
Be a Daily User
Log in online every day, even if you can only be on for 30 minutes. Look for people who’re asking questions and answer them. Ping your old acquaintances. If someone’s doing a launch, help them out.
It’s much, much better to spend 30 minutes a day on B2B social media than to spend five hours once a week. Relationships are built through many small interactions, rather than in one big push.
To sum things up, work on building your relationships. Do so long before you need them. Be someone that others can count on. Support others. This is how you build rock-solid connections that’ll help you in your career and in life.