I belong to an in-person networking group that has been HUGE for growing my business through referrals.

The reason is that the group’s focus is on relationships.

OK, fine, you might be thinking. But What if I want to grow my business online, Megan???

It’s no different. The same exact principles apply whether you join a local networking group or meet people on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

It boils down to being the kind of human other people want to add to their network.

Here are a few key principles you can use to network more successfully, whether you’re doing it online or in person.

It’s Not All About You

Remember that everyone else is also trying to promote their business. That means you can stand out as a person others want to talk by being curious and asking others about what they do, not only talking about what YOU do.

A few years back, a new member joined the networking group I mentioned above. When we scheduled a coffee date to get to know one another better, she told me she was really miffed that no one in the group was jumping at the chance to promote her new program by sharing the link or the flier. Her expectation was that since she took the trouble to come to the group, others would automatically do her marketing for her.

Now, to be fair, there are some networking groups that have built-in expectations and even quotas around referrals. But this wasn’t one of them. This group fosters organic, relationship-based networking. People refer people they know, like, and trust. And it takes time to build trust.

Unless you join a very specific type of networking group, no one will be obligated to send you referrals. (And they definitely won’t if you’re networking online!)

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that his woman left the group within a few months. Her frustration that no one was referring her after just meeting her became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The attitude that others owed her something was a big turn-off that ended up driving away potential connections.

It’s Not All About Business

Getting to know others at a human level is an important part of networking. Show you care about the whole person by asking where they’re from or what they do for fun.

This not only makes other people feel more at ease, it will make YOU more comfortable! Think about how much easier it is to start a conversation with small talk. Try these out:

  • What are you up to this weekend?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • Seen any good movies / Netflix shows recently you would recommend?
  • What are your favorite podcasts?

Figure out how you can connect with people and make them feel at ease. A lot of people identify as introverts and dread networking. Others worry they’ll be sold to as soon as they walk in the door or join the Facebook group.

If you put your conscious focus on being personable and REAL, you’ll put people at ease and accelerate relationship-building and trust.

Referrals Are Solid Gold

Not everyone you meet will be your customer! A lot of the people you meet networking will be connectors who refer you to customers, or who might even be able to introduce you to influencers, e.g., people with podcasts, blogs, or other platforms that could help you reach a wider audience.

This means trying to sell to everyone isn’t effective. But showing up and being a helpful, awesome person is. That’s what makes someone else want to have you in their network.  

It’s All in the Follow Through

You have to follow up! Since networking is really about relationships, think about how you can build a relationship. (Hint: meeting someone once and exchanging business cards or FB page links won’t do it.)

Send a follow-up message. Find a way to be helpful — maybe there’s a book or YouTube video that you think the other person would enjoy.

Maybe you’ve written a blog post that you think would help them out.

Be creative and use your instincts. You’ll become memorable by being the person who showed up and was helpful.

Be Yourself. Seriously.

Ultimately, networking is about being your fabulous self while also letting people know what you do to help others — that is, your job!

When you show up as a genuine, kind, personable, wonderful human, others want to work with you and refer you to their friends, family, and business connections.

Which of these principles resonates most with you? Which one do you think you could start applying in your networking?

Leave a comment and let me know how your networking is going. Where are you getting stuck?

Do you need help following up? I’ve got a resource for you! No need to sign up — it’s yours for free just because I like you.

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