“Best Tips to Network Authentically and Successfully” was originally posted by hint Founder & CEO, Kara Goldin, on LinkedIn here:
The one constant? I’m always networking.
But not in a cheesy, sleazy or transparent way. The word “network” might make some people cringe, but making and maintaining connections is essential in business—and life. And like any relationship, you have to put in constant effort for things to really flourish.
Here’s how I create new connections—authentically:
Show up. It’s tricky with my schedule, but I make time to attend industry events and conferences. This way, I’m constantly running into people who have knowledge that I can pick up on—even if it’s not an obvious tie-in to my business. That’s how I met celebrity nutritionist and fitness expert JJ Virgin. She’s a huge fan of Hint and also hosts health conferences. After striking up a friendship, she started inviting me to speak at her conference. Even though I’m in the food and beverage industry, we share the same mission of helping people reach their wellness goals. And every time I attend one of her conferences, I come back having learned more about who my customers are and how to bring more value to them.
Reach out. On a regular basis, I meet other entrepreneurs through LinkedIn. I’m pretty straightforward about it: I send them a message and explain to them who I am. Then, I ask if they have time for a quick coffee or lunch or a 15-minute phone call—relatively easy requests. And if you’re afraid of the cold call, take heart: all the people who I’ve approached this way have been really receptive.
Take a wide view. Don’t limit your list of reach-outs to those who are strictly in your industry. I find that I learn a lot more if I’m interacting with people in other fields. In the past couple of months, I’ve had lunch with John Foraker, CEO at organic food company Annie’s Inc. I’ve also had a similar dialogue with the CEO of Cliff bars.
Solve their problem. Want to insta-bond with a new connection? Ask what you can do to help, point-blank. Some people tend to beat around the bush, or avoid talking too much during a first meeting, but I prefer being up front. I put it all on the table and ask, “What can I do?” This gesture demonstrates loyalty and is especially impressive if you follow through. Then, when the conversation circles back to me, I’ll throw out my questions like, “How have you guys have done public relations in the past? What’s worked for you and what’s not worth it?” or “Do you know anyone who can help me with fundraising?”
Ask for advice. Try to place a new contact in a mentor position—it endears them to you. I’ve found that women tend to be better at asking for help than men.
Play matchmaker. In the wise words of Porter Gale, your network is your net worth. People who know me always say I’m a connector, because I’m constantly thinking, who do I know who has the right skills to help my new connection? I’m constantly in that mindset when I’m meeting people. And the more free-flowing I am with introductions, it all ends up coming back to help me. Think of it as networking karma. You don’t want to come across as a bouncer blocking entrance at an exclusive club. Instead, you want to be the host inside, pulling as many people into the party as possible.