In this digital age, it is now easier than ever to interact with people all around the globe, so a solid network is within your reach.  Increasing your friends and building your network is a cost-effective marketing strategy that can lead to sales opportunities in a variety of ways.  Read on for seven ways to get started.

1. Don’t just attend events, be an active participant.  Deciding to attend workshops, conventions, and the like is a great start to meeting new people in your field.  However, you should make the most of your time there. Speak up, be helpful and get involved. Set a goal for how many new people you will meet at an event, and be consistent.  The more you do it, the easier it will become.

2. Hold off on the sales pitch.  When introducing yourself to potential contacts, DO share your name, business, and other relevant information.  DO NOT break into a prepared commercial in hopes of selling yourself then and there.  The relationship you want to build must be based on common interests and shared goals.  Save the sales pitch for a follow-up meeting or phone call.

3. Ask good questions.  When talking to people you’ve just met, asking questions shows that you are interested in what they have to say and that you are truly listening.  Take this strategy to the next level by asking the right types of questions that facilitate a worthwhile conversation.  For example, “So how do you like the food here?” will doom you to several minutes of small talk and get you nowhere.  On the other hand, “So what is your role in your business?” and “What are you hoping to get out of this convention that will help you in your business?” are more effective questions that get people talking about themselves.  Not only are you learning more about them, but you are building the foundation for a professional relationship. As you perfect your conversations skills you may want start with and develop a script to help you with this process.

4. Follow up.  So you’ve met several potential contacts; now what?  Don’t be lax about initiating the first phone call or email.  Remind the person where you met him or her, mention that it was a pleasure to meet, and set a time to discuss what you talked about earlier.  Furthermore, don’t wait more than a day or two after meeting the person to make contact. Make this a weekly habit to meet with new people.

5. Incorporate your online presence with your offline presence.  When you meet people at a networking event, be sure to give them what they need to find you online (your website URL, Twitter handle, etc.).  It’s also a good idea to arrange for face-to-face meet-ups with some of your online business contacts.  By integrating your networks, you enhance those relationships and build your business.

6. Ask friends to make introductions. When you’re at a social gathering or event, don’t be shy to ask your friends to introduce you to other people. Just like in tip one, set a goal for how many new people you want to meet.

7. Do something new. Don’t sit around and wait to be invited to a party or event. Make it happen. Find something new that peaks your interest or something that you have no concept of. Once you get there have fun, engage in conversation with others, and tag along with individuals you like. Again, set a goal for how many new people you would like to meet.

What are your ideas for building your network?  Please share them with us in the comments section below.

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