Today online networking has emerged as a much sought after and very effective tool to further your career, find a job, learn new skills for your professional advancement or improve your business.
Network for success
While the entire world of opportunities lies in front of you, a few fingertips away, if you become adept at using the online realm, you end up gaining much more than you had ever anticipated. Spruce up your online smartness and get the best out of networking.
Here are a few ideas for an effective networking plan:
- Open a special folder and start by noting down your goals – whether you want to find a job, improve your business, market your products and services, learn a new skill or knowledge – and write your mission statement as a first step.
- Put down clearly your area of interest, your skills and knowledge and the type of company you want to apply to for a job and how many contacts you would like to establish. If you want to promote your business or do marketing, choose the number of contacts you would like to form in your prospective client companies.
- In your mission statement, put down what you can bring to the table for the benefit of the company or the client you want to associate with.
- That done, your research begins in right earnest. Go to company websites, leadership directories and several other sources in the online world, including professional sites like LinkedIn, and select the companies of your choice to start networking. Look up the business leaders/hiring managers you want to associate with and make a note of their email ids and other contact details if available. For example, if you are looking for a job, apart from contact details of a hiring manager you may also want to get the details of a potential boss or head of the unit/team you would like to join.
- It is imperative you build a database, ideally an Excel Spreadsheet, of your contacts, to facilitate your networking agenda of procuring a job or a business. Ideally you should try to have contact details of 20-25 prospective networking contacts per company you are interested in, out of which at least four people (@20% response rate) would respond to your letters/emails.
- Prepare a simple, direct and honest networking letter/email to your prospective contact expressing your interest to build connections to help you understand the company, industry and the business ambience. Remember to give your contact information. A personal and direct mail is a good way to build your network.
- It is a smart thing to time your mail around mid-week when executives are a little relaxed and free from hectic meetings and schedules.
- After 3-4 days of sending your mail or letter, you can follow up to schedule a time to talk – confirming date, time, time zone, phone number and other contact information. This will help express your interest and further your relationship with a prospective networking contact.
- Prepare well for the networking meeting. If you are seeking a job you must enumerate on your skills and the value you would bring to the company and explain why you are interested in the company. Conclude by thanking the person and, if possible, schedule a personal meeting. Otherwise find out if he can put you on to further networking contacts of interest to you and enter the details in your excel sheet. Follow up with a thank you email if possible.
- Make it a habit of asking for 2-3 leads from each of your networking contacts and add the details to your database.
- Also remember, you cannot expect immediate success. Don’t get frustrated but keep learning – reassess, redirect your approach and surge forward. A systematic approach will make you a resourceful person who leverages failure to make himself or herself better for the next opportunity.
Effective business networking
The online world is an effective arena where you can establish long-lasting and trustworthy relationships to promote your business.
- Put down your goals of participating in networking meetings to help you select groups that match your intentions, such as whether these meetings will help you make business connections or help you learn.
- Business connections will expand if you visit many groups and study the attitude of the group, whether the members are supportive, competent, etc.
- Volunteer positions in organizations are a great way to help make you visible and entice business contacts or groups to approach you.
- Put forward open-ended questions in networking conversations that will throw open a discussion and permit you to identify interested persons in a group.
The online world is a huge potential market for those who can exploit its advantages astutely and help you earn or run your own part-time/full-time business. If you are looking for freelancing or online work, you need to look into the following:
- Look for stability of the company that is contracting your services/offering you a franchisee as well as its reputation as a reliable paymaster. Look at the nature of products and services the company offers to make an assessment on whether it would be profitable for you to associate with this company.
- Examine the pay plan to find out how you will get paid.
- A little bit of due-diligence would ensure you don’t get taken for a jolly ride. The integrity of the company and the management will come to light by researching the company’s standing in the market as well as individual track records of the CEOs or management heads of the company.
- Ensure that the company is growing and it’s standing in the market is impeccable.
- Look at the support, training and business systems of the company.
In a nutshell, choose a company which has a great management, products or services that are in demand, a fair and generous pay plan, stability and a good system in place, as well as training and mentorship opportunities to find yourself an online career or business opportunity.
The Internet can be an effective marketing tool if you know the rules of the game.
- Have an online presence with a website for your business or services, if possible with autoresponders to enable you to snare leads. The autoresponders can also follow up with the leads.
- Regular follow-ups are a must for marketing. Ensure online and phone follow-ups on a regular basis with your leads.
- Be careful you do not resort to spamming as it would be harmful for your business and reputation.
- Exemplary reputation, integrity and honesty are important for your business. Have systems in place and ensure great financials, if possible with the help of an accountant.
- Make arrangements to associate with lawyers who are well-versed in the laws that deal with networking marketing.