What if you could set up one 15-minute meeting and walk away with a $500,000 investment and a business connection in Silicon Valley?
That’s exactly what Mark Zuckerberg did back in 2004 when his associate and temporary roommate, Sean Parker, set up a meeting with Peter Thiel, a hedge fund manager and the co-founder of PayPal. Thiel heard Zuckerberg’s pitch about his social networking website and wanted in. That investment was put in motion by networking; since then, Facebook has grown into a multibillion-dollar company.
Networking is the lifeblood of any business. Entrepreneurs with strong and vibrant professional networks can arrange valuable meetings and introductions, find investors, get help with recruitment, secure reliable product testers, uncover opportunities, and amplify their advertising.
Building a network takes time and energy, but having an army of influencers in your back pocket can be invaluable when launching a new business or product. As you’re gearing up for your launch, make socialization a ritual — a necessary business function, like payroll. Connect with people in your network regularly to maintain and strengthen your relationships over time so that when you’re ready to launch, you’ll be fresh in your contacts’ minds.
If you can’t hire someone to stay on top of your social calendar, you should at least establish a system for organizing and managing your network. Create a spreadsheet of your professional contacts, along with information about when you’ve reached out to them and what for. You can also find a company or CRM that will track this information for you.
3 Creative Ways to Leverage Your Network for a Launch
If you’ve contributed enough social capital in the months leading up to your launch, you can use these tips to get the most out of your network for the launch of your new product or startup:
- Use connections to find brilliant new hires. As a founder, your most important job is hiring the right people. It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll serendipitously stumble upon bright individuals who share your vision in line at Starbucks, so call on your network to introduce you to people who might be a good fit. Outline what you’re looking for, and ask them to send qualified people your way.
- Recruit investors to attract investors. Identify and recruit key investors or advisors who have relationships with other influential people, and get them personally invested in the success of your company. They can help you meet the right people and attend the right parties to connect with other investors who can help you grow your company.
- Tap into your reliable networks. Be strategic when calling in favors so you don’t make too many requests from the same few people. For example, low-stakes contacts — like friends, advisors, and ex-colleagues — are great product testers in the early stages because you can count on them to give you honest feedback. Investors or former employers might be better at helping you with hiring or making business connections.
Professional networking is the key to success. Whether it’s building a company, launching a product, or venturing into uncharted professional waters, your network can give you the guidance, assistance, and support necessary to succeed. Nurture your network, use it wisely, and watch your business grow.