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Mastering the Art of Networking Build Your Business Through Whom You Know and Who Knows You

Today, networking is much more than meeting and greeting at a luncheon or get-together. Technology has added new ways of connecting with others and has created new challenges for an old art. Despite high-tech advances, however, old-fashioned etiquette rules remain important. Here are some ideas for presenting yourself in a professional, compelling way both in person and online to earn new business and uncover opportunities.

Your current clients and prospects are your best source for referrals to others who might need your services. Do not be shy about asking them to help you expand your business. Request contact information for anyone your client wishes to refer to you and reach out to contacts in person whenever possible. Also always leave your business cards with your current clients to hand out to others as you come up in conversation.

Your local chamber of commerce and professional organizations associated with your business offer many ways to make yourself known in your industry and geographic area. Attend a breakfast or luncheon meeting and bring along your marketing brochures, business cards and a notebook to jot down information about the new contacts you meet.

The line between business and personal lives can easily blur in the online world. When you are networking online, use caution when revealing the details of your life to others. Pay careful attention to the networks you are considering joining and consider the implications to your privacy.

Services are available for helping business people navigate these waters gracefully and professionally.

Services such as Facebook and LinkedIn give you the opportunity to join professional groups appropriate for your type of business. Learn online networking protocol and adhere to community standards. Learn how to properly approach a business proposition lest you appear to others as a “spammer,” which is considered a serious breech of etiquette and trust on many social networks.

Online social networks offer opportunities to introduce yourself, connect your profile to colleagues and prospects and show your work relationships to others. Some people find it intrusive to be offered a friendship if they have not met you in person; others enjoy having a large network. Carefully study each online network you join and consider with whom you want to connect before choosing a strategy. You can find services to help you identify sites that make sense for your organization and develop a strategy for maximizing your networking results.

You make an impression online just as you do in person. Show enthusiasm in your introduction. Mention how you are connected to someone and make a special offer, such as an invitation to an upcoming business event, or mention a recent event at which you came into contact. This personalizes the contact and is a polite way to demonstrate you are not canvassing the entire community, but have a real interest in reaching out to that person individually.

You are always available online, and you can now network even in your sleep! Potential networking contacts can join your network or sign up for your newsletter, view your website and find your business via search engines. This can increase business and help grow your network. Put attention on your virtual image. How good you look online is as important as how good you look in person. Soon, your network will be wider and deeper than ever before as you create, come across and are offered many opportunities for growing your business exponentially.

Kelly Duggan is an Image Consultant specializing in executive and personal image development, etiquette & communication skills. She is a certified member of the Association of Image Consultants International. Contact Kelly at: www.kellyduggan.com.

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