“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Networking is a critical component of building a successful business. Whether you are running a startup or creating an influencer empire, connecting with other people in your field is vital. Meeting like-minded people has always been an important piece of the puzzle but, over the past decade or so, the way in which we meet people has changed. Previously, networking was done almost entirely in person through events and handing out business cards. Now, online networking is taking over. Doing so correctly can make or break your success in business. Here are some of our top tips for those looking to make some great contacts.

Build your online presence first

Prior to reaching out to anyone, you need to maximize your online presence. Make yourself known. Using LinkedIn is a great way to get started. Add keywords to your headline, professional summary, and experience sections. Link your profile URL in your email signature. Join relevant groups and endorse skills for others. Doing this on other social networks will also make a huge difference. Like and comment on photos and status updates. Let people know you are interested in their lives and their businesses too. These things will get you on other people’s radars before you ever have a conversation with them.

Start local

This may seem counterintuitive to building a global empire, but connecting with people who are in close geographical proximity has major benefits. People are more likely to connect with and support other local entrepreneurs. There is a much higher chance of creating a personal bond when you are physically close to another person and can meet up in person on a regular basis. It will only help your business to have a solid community in your own backyard. You never know who they know and could connect you with later on.

Find a personal connection

A shared point of interest or a link between you and a potential contact could make a big difference in whether or not they respond to your networking efforts. Start with things you have in common. Hometowns, alma maters, previous jobs and even clubs or organizations are all great starting points in finding common ground. Although this will not always be a direct way in, a personal tie is much more likely to spark interest in another person. Not only does it create a reason to want to connect in the first place, but it offers a great conversation starting point and immediately begins building a positive rapport.

Get an introduction

The world of networking is built on mutual friends. This means that when you are looking to network with another person, common connections are the first place you should look. Find a mutual contact and ask them to introduce you. People are much more likely to respond to someone they already know and more often than not, are willing to help out a friend. This instantly creates a feeling a familiarity and will start you off on the right foot. Although the main point of this interaction is to meet someone new, don’t forget to thank the introducer. Without them, your meeting would not have been possible.

Know what you’re after

Although a common interest or shared connection is a great starting point, both parties know that is not why you wanted to connect in the first place. Have a reason for reaching out. Let them know why you need them and how they can help you. Once you have your reason, have a very clear idea of what exactly you are asking for. Give details about what you would like to learn from them. Let them know that they aren’t a random choice but instead are the right person for the job. People are much more likely to give you their time when they feel important.

Ask for a meeting

At the end of the day, talking online can only get you so far. Once you’ve made your connection, ask to meet up for coffee or grab lunch. Conversation is king when it comes to fostering powerful relationships. Meeting up in person gives the other person a better idea of who you are and what your business is. Although the online portion is vital, meeting up in person solidifies the connection.