In this five-part series, we’re looking at marketing tactics that can help boost your consulting business’ visibility and better sell your skills to the organizations that need them right now. Today we examine concrete steps you can take to build your network.
If you’ve been following our series thus far, you already have the tools you need to build your brand and establish yourself as a thought leader. And you may recall that as part of the latter strategy, we discussed the importance of creating shareable content to extend your reach. In this third part of the series, we look at another way to extend your reach—by expanding your professional network.
What you know vs. who you know
COVID continues to reshape the way the world does business, and many companies are exploring previously uncharted territory, either to stay afloat or to get ahead. Speculation abounds, and though innovation thrives amidst uncertainty, the last thing any CEO wants is to be uncertain about the independent consultant they’re hiring to help innovate.
It’s no surprise that organizations prefer to hire talent with a proven track record. But when trust is this critical, referrals from respected peers and employees become the gold standard. Various studies estimate that 70-85 percent of people were hired for their current role thanks to networking.
Be clear about what you do best—and make yourself known for it—in order to build your network and stay top of mind when executives are looking for independent talent to support new projects and changing priorities. Here are four ways to do just that:
Start with the relationships you already have
Anything worth building is worth building well, which means it requires a sturdy foundation. When it comes to your professional network, think of your current clients, former co-workers, and professional contacts as that foundation. The stronger it is, the more you can build on it.
As LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman has said, “One of the challenges in networking is everybody thinks it’s making cold calls to strangers. Actually, it’s the people who already have strong trust relationships with you, who know you’re dedicated, smart, a team player, who can help you.”
Deepening these connections means considering your network’s needs, challenges, or pain points and reaching out proactively. Be genuine in your interactions and nurture relationships in a way that allows you to apply your skills to add value.
Give first, receive later
Whether strengthening your current connections or seeking out new ones, networking is a two-way street. If you want others to think of you when making referrals or introductions, you have to think of them first.
“It does not have to be big stuff. It does not have to be, ‘Adam, I am presenting you with a business gift,’” Sallie Krawchek, founder of Ellevest, says. “But instead it can be, I met with Adam a couple weeks ago, and I know he was interested in X, and here is an article on X, so let me send it over to him. Or I met someone, and I think he and Adam would really hit it off. Let me make that introduction or offer to make it.”
Connecting people within your network is a powerful way to add value to your relationships, particularly if they have experience or skills outside your area of expertise. This has the added benefit of reinforcing trust by acknowledging that you know what you know, as well as what you don’t.
Later, those contacts will be more likely to think of you when they need to connect someone with the specific types of problems you excel at solving.
Build your network beyond your industry
When you spend much of your professional life focused on a specific industry or area of expertise, your closest professional relationships tend to become similarly focused. This makes for a valuable network in many ways, but lack of diversity will ultimately limit its potential.
By connecting with experts outside your immediate industry, you enrich your network by introducing new perspectives and resources—and possibly even unexpected partnership opportunities. It can also help broaden your understanding of current business challenges and spark ideas for innovative solutions.
Be their guest
Though COVID concerns have made in-person networking difficult lately, the digital realm offers its own opportunities. Guest authoring articles for related industry sites can help you demonstrate your expertise and help you build your network connections with a new audience. In many cases, you can repurpose content you originally created for your site, dive deeper into a topic you’ve touched on before, or create a round-up post that links back to past articles. Don’t forget to include a link to your site in your author bio!
Further multiply the benefits of this strategy by offering to share your expertise on your network contacts’ blogs or news sites. Their audience gets the benefit of your expertise, your contact gets the benefit of providing valuable content, and you get the benefit of making new connections.
With your network established and growing strong, it’s time to polish your online presence. In part four of this series, we’ll explore ways to make your website more robust that will help attract new clients and build trust.
About the AuthorMore Content by Emily Slayton