We all know the strength of business networking and are for the most part are doing our best to be in the right places to be present and engaged with the best possible “others” (prospective customers, industry peers connectors and influencers).
But suppose your business is specialized to a very specific niche? You may be a contract provider to an industry sector or a service provider in construction, or in logistics and shipping or training. And suppose your dream come true would be the ability to work within the vendor system of the giants like British Petroleum or Chevron.
No amount of networking or hustle is likely to land you in a ballgame like that, regardless of the events you attend or how engaging you are. To that end, here are a few helps on the ways to extend your networking activities into the realm that face to face events and social media doesn’t reach.
- If you’re in a niche, go niche. Remember that regardless of the scenario and whether its live or online, it’s easier to be outgoing and make successful connections when you and the others present are part of a common industry niche. Perhaps its music. Outdoor sports. The Blockchain. Find the very focused niches and find out where the other participants are. Look for the esoteric events or associations where you and others share a strong set of needs and interests for your type of service or expertise, it’s easy to speak up. In fact, you can offer to speak at the events. Volunteer to be an officer or to head a committee. Collectively, you and others can move the sector forward while sharing contacts and resources. It may be an efficient way to get to the right connections in your target client organizations as well.
- Share value. Whether it’s a podcast, an article or an online discussion you’ve encountered on your specialty niche, instead of offering an opinion, make an offer of value to readers and other participants instead. Clearly you have a level of expertise and experience that ties into your offering. So you can contribute some points of value or point to a free resource on your website you are able to share. Perhaps you could offer private email support or a one on one phone call or consultation to those who are interested in the area and could benefit from the knowledge you share. This is a great way to market your services without having to actually “sell”.
- Let technology guide you. Use hashtag or keyword searches to direct you to the very focused online communities that could be beneficial networking conduits for you. Yes, it’s a low-tech form of artificial intelligence, but getting integrated into the places where the right conversations exist will most logically lead to the right connections for you.
- Get into a supplier network. In my own work, my company is a provider of risk management training and services to vendors across the supply chains that support the world’s largest organizations. This is a principle, however, that applies to other sectors as well. Our company (Avetta) provides supplier certification for contractors in sectors like transportation, oil and gas and manufacturing. But an interesting aspect of a network like this is that it results in a kind of LinkedIn for service and product providers. They become participants in a kind of marketplace or community where they can add value and ideas to each other. They know about the needs of the largest clients and the decision process for becoming a vendor for each. They can share the opportunities coming up that are analogous to the ones they are filling or can help to facilitate a solid connection.
As numbers grow in the supplier network we enroll and certify we’ve noticed another phenomenon as well – the specialized contractors within it become more visible as qualified and certified participants to the level of clients they’d potentially otherwise never meet. Being within the network instantly verifies and validates you within an entirely new realm.
In all, you don’t have to be the life of the party—or even go to the party at all. If you use these principles well, you can potentially gain all the networking advantages you require within a more limited scope of activities and perhaps even without having to set a foot outside of the door.
Scott Nelson is director of global marketing for Avetta Inc., a provider of supply chain risk management services.