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Networking is not a new concept in the business world, and certainly not to the business professionals who are doing it. But for business owners, forging new connections with other businesses in the same space can often feel like trying to make friends with the competition, and knowing how or when to reach out might not come naturally.
But building that network of support is key to long-term business success, and can be especially important during the first few years of growth. So to help demystify the networking process, the members of Rolling Stone Culture Council provide their best tips on how to do it right and how to ensure you’re building strong relationships for the long term.
Find Like-Minded Peers
Creating a fabric of professional business contacts who will provide support, insight and resources has always been a key part of how I learn. For me, it’s key to connect with like-minded collaborators in the social impact and cannabis space. Networking can be difficult because of the time and resources it requires, but stick with it. Some of the most meaningful opportunities will come from this work. – Jenna Valleriani, Canopy Growth Corporation
Provide Value to Others
When your networking is not working, you’re not growing. The key to networking is to provide value to others. If done efficiently, forging new connections is like making new investments that create a foundation for the foreseeable future. Those connections can help you achieve your goals, stay ahead of the game, gain insight, build relationships and get advice from others in similar spaces. – David Castain, David Castain & Associates
Build Mutually Beneficial Relationships
Understand your strengths, their strengths, your opportunities and their opportunities. Building a relationship that’s mutually beneficial will ensure both parties succeed. No one can do it alone, so find great partners that you trust and achieve greatness together. – Brad Canario, Auxly
Be Authentically Human
Be a human with the people you work with now. I’ve never felt that networking was natural for me, so instead I just make sure to communicate with the people I work with on a person-to-person level and that I deliver at my job. It’s the “long game,” but after 10 years in the digital world I feel like I’ve actually made authentic connections rather than transactional connections. – Cynthia Parkhurst, Teammate
Join Local Meetup Groups
Joining local Meetup groups in your industry helps you make connections in a no-pressure atmosphere. This will help you know who the main players are in your field. You can also find mentors from the Meetup groups to help you succeed faster than trying to do it all on your own. – Matt Campbell, My Wedding Songs
Collaborate and Cross-Promote
Identify other businesses that also share your same target audience and target market. Host an event or pop-up that brings all of you together under one roof to maximize your reach. – Lisa Song Sutton, Elite Homes
Attend Industry Conferences
By attending industry conferences, you’ll not only learn about trends in that industry, but you’ll also connect with leaders and influencers in that sector. Go there with an attitude of learning rather than selling. Follow up via LinkedIn (or meetings) afterward to keep the relationships alive. – Nancy A Shenker, theONswitch
Simply Reach Out
One tip I’d give is to never underestimate the power of outreach. This can be done as easily as sending direct messages on Instagram nowadays. Do your research and find complimentary people to work with to grow your brand. Rachel Luna once told me, “It takes a village to raise a child, and if you think of your business as your child, one must nurture these connections with others in order to succeed.” – Irma Miriam Penunuri, Burgerrock Media
Look for Opportunities to Help
Craft beer used to be awesome at this, but it has eroded over the past few years (we’re trying to get it back). The important thing is to genuinely look for opportunities to help others without asking for or expecting anything in return. Share knowledge. Pressure test ideas. If they’re doing something good, get behind it and tell anyone who will listen. – Kevin McGee, Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Creating new connections with others in your industry is a great way to share ideas and creative solutions. I love to brainstorm with others who find the conversations mutually beneficial. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a great tool to find the right people to connect with. I find it very effective. Just ask for the connection and don’t create spam messages. No one likes that. – Michael Newman, The Bureau of Small Projects
Align Your Values and ‘Why’
Understand your values and your “why” and find organizations that are aligned. Ask them what they need and see if you can help, especially if it’s within your core competency. When the “why” and your values are aligned, it greatly improves the chances of success for both organizations. There’s likely to be a better cultural fit between team members, and projects have a better chance of moving forward. – Lisa Buffo, Cannabis Marketing Association
One tip we have used is welcoming competition. We host a farmers market-style meetup on the second Saturday of every month and welcome everyone. McDonald’s wouldn’t be popular with out a Burger King. People want options. – Chris Martin, Hempful Farms
Become a Resource
By understanding the various aspects of your industry and how they are connected together, you become a resource for your connections. This is vital for both your own business and for the people you interact with on a daily basis and creates a business and personal relationship that goes beyond money. – Skip Meador, marQaha
Ditch Your Agenda
Forge connections without a specific agenda. It takes the pressure off the other party thinking you want something from them and can make for more meaningful relationships. You might be surprised at what good work you can create together down the line. – Michael Klein, Miraculo Inc.