1. Attend networking events
Attend events where you are likely to meet other business people. Do not limit yourself to your own industry: you will benefit from meeting people from all walks of life. For instance, if you find that you need specialist insurance, it is helpful if you already know an insurance adviser.
When you attend these events, look for ways of making a strong initial impact. Listen to what people have to say, and find out what they are interested in. Try to work out how you can add value to the conversation, perhaps by recommending a good accountant to someone who is starting up in business.
2. Follow up the initial contact
When you meet someone for the first time, exchange business cards and follow up within a few days. This might be by email, phone, or an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Remind them of who you are and what you do.
If you think you can do business right away, make your proposal and suggest a time to discuss further. Alternatively, you might like to suggest meeting for a drink or at another networking event. If you do not receive a reply to a message, you might like to follow up with a phone call. However, it is important not to be too pushy. You will probably meet the person at another event and have the opportunity to renew the contact.
3. Do what you say you will do
Part of building up business relationships is establishing a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness. This means that, if you said you would introduce your new acquaintance to a third party, or that you would email them the address of a printing firm, you must make sure that you do so in a timely fashion.
4. Build your on-line presence
Much business networking is done on-line these days, and you cannot afford to ignore your on-line presence. As well as having a LinkedIn profile, you may wish to create pages for your business on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Keep your profile high by contributing to on-line forums, but make sure that your postings are thoughtful and relevant.
5. Create wider relationships
Finally, remember that the best relationships are about more than just business. Build genuine friendships with the people you meet, and contribute to community and charity events. Doing this will help people to trust and respect you. In turn, they are more likely to use your services and to recommend your business to others.