Making the most of your network when you start your own business
by Amy Rose Gould
Making the most of your network
One of the very first things I cover when I work with women who are setting up their own businesses is the power of their existing network. It’s easy to underestimate the connections you have when you start your venture, especially if your business isn’t in the same industry as your previous career. It’s also easy to miss potential opportunities if you assume that someone isn’t interested in your offering based on your past experience with them, or their job title.
For example, Kevin in I.T might not be interested in your antenatal coaching, but he probably knows someone that will be! Word of mouth goes a long way, and getting the news out there is paramount when you first start out.
One of my favourite marketing/networking platforms to use is LinkedIn. It has a bit of an old-school-business reputation but as you’re starting a business it makes complete sense to use it! And even if you don’t plan on using LinkedIn regularly, it’s a great way to get the word out when you first startup (or when you need a real marketing boost).
Here are a few things I’d suggest doing:
Update your work history
Make sure your work history is up to date. This will help LinkedIn make suggestions about who you might know, which is particularly helpful when connecting with ex-colleagues you’ve lost touch with or names you had seen on an email but never actually met in the office.
Connect with everyone
Even if it’s a vague connection, you won’t lose anything by sending a connection request. People will either accept it or they won’t, and if they do it means one more person will see your posts. And if they like or make a comment on something you post, then their connections will see the post too.
Check your alert settings
When you’re ready to go live with your business, make sure your account is set up to alert your connections about any changes you make to your job title or history. This will send a notification to all your connections which is an easy way of updating people, but make sure you also:
Send direct messages
Send a direct message to all of your connections. And when I say all of your connections, I mean ALL OF THEM. Even if you strongly believe they won’t be interested. Again, you’re not losing anything by sending a short ‘Hi, how are you? I’ve recently started up as an antenatal coach so please keep me in mind….’ Etc. Chances are you’ll get a congratulations message back, and you will have planted the seed for your name to pop up whenever someone they know becomes pregnant.
Make an announcement
Post an announcement about your business going live. I found being visible extremely painful in the beginning and it’s something I still struggle with now, but no one will ever know what you’re doing unless you tell them. And no-one will ever care as much about your business as you will so try to get over the cringiness and fear of judgement. People will most likely be happy for you and supportive of your new venture, and they won’t notice any of the imperfections that you think define you.
Post updates an articles
LinkedIn gives you two options to post content, as an update and as an article. Use the update function to post shorter pieces, such as views on recent articles you’ve read. Add images and links to help your post stand out, and also include relevant hashtags. Use the article function to post longer pieces of content, such as your own blog posts. You can either write a whole article or if you want people to link back to your website, post the first paragraph or two with a link to view the rest on your own site.
Comment on your connections’ posts, even if it’s only a word or two. This way your name will pop up more frequently on news feeds and will generally help to get your name out to a wider audience.
I hope this has given you some food for thought!