Ideal Networking Tips for the Creative Entrepreneur

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These tips are ideas that I have used successfully and often recommend to other creative entrepreneurs.

They will help you market your business, grow your network and expand your visibility and leadership skills.

1. Gather endorsements

I’ve used endorsements with resumes, grant applications, on my Web site, in my marketing materials, in letters of request and with project proposals. Endorsements differ from testimonials, in that endorsements tend to focus on your general character strengths and talents. Testimonials are more specific, relating to work you’ve done for a customer or client. Endorsements are easier to obtain since the endorser need not have been a customer. Make a list of potential endorsers, concentrating on those who have the strongest credibility. Ask for a few sentences summarizing your character strengths and talents. Have a couple of draft endorsements ready for those who may ask you to send a sample. Be specific about what you want in the endorsement, and always thank your endorsers.

2. Become a “connector” of people

A “connector” is someone who knows everyone. If you need the best handyman, Realtor or lawyer, this is the person who can give you the name. As a “connector,” you will become a source of referrals. Your network will be so broad with valuable resources, that everyone will be calling you for help. You must begin by gathering resources to be added to your network. Make some contacts with service providers you know or have heard about. As you start making connections, you’ll realize that everyone is looking for something or someone (a job, a hairdresser, a Web site designer). You will provide that referral, making sure that the person you are referring is aware that you’ve passed their name along. You’ll build your visibility and credibility while attracting interesting people and opportunities.

3. Start a club or organization

The most unique segment of my network is a result of founding a non profit organization. The process gave me a reason to meet community leaders, philanthropists and sports professionals at every level and in a variety of sports, expanding my network by hundreds. I’m not advising you to attempt something overwhelming, but surely you can imagine that even starting a small book club or jazz group could expand your network in fantastic ways. You are not only building your network, but you are also helping other people grow theirs. That’s a leadership skill. Start with what you love–a hobby or a talent you’d like to nurture. Put an ad in the paper and contact some friends. Book yourself on local talk shows.

4. Create a publicity vehicle for other people

Anytime you have even the smallest publicity vehicle, there will be people who want access. They will hunt you down in the grocery store and call you at odd hours, but there is a wonderful feeling about helping others get visible. You are essentially helping them to open doors they probably would not be able to open otherwise. You’ll want to set criteria for who gets access to your publicity vehicle, because these are people you want to add to your network. Consider your preferred options for creating this means of publicity. Maybe you can host a local cable television show or radio talk show, write a spotlight column or send out a newsletter that features a person, pet project or business. You might organize a talent, fashion or art show, put people’s links on your Web site or ask them to speak at your club. Give a lecture and reference them as an expert or ask them to be a special guest at a class you teach.

5. Attach yourself to the most visible entity in your area

What is the organization, company or group in your area that is in the media all of the time? It’s fine if the entity is controversial so long as it is respected. Is it the Economic Development Board or the Arts Council? Maybe you have an attraction in your area that the whole town centers life around. Is there a board of directors or a “Friends of the Museum…Library or Zoo?” Whatever it is, there should be a way for you to affiliate. Volunteer your talents on a committee; join the group and attend the meetings. If this entity is getting lots of attention, it must have an impressive network. Your affiliation with it will give you access to that network.

6. Create a coalition

A coalition is a group of people who are “cause-driven.” Coalitions are assembled to accomplish great things. They run political campaigns, lobby for new laws, fight against “wrongs” and raise funds to build institutions. Coalitions require leadership, and if that’s a path that interests you, then you’ll need to begin with a forceful mission. A coalition needs a sense of doing something significant for the masses. Are you a speaker who would like to see professional fees standardized? Maybe you are a business consultant that wants a small business incentives program started in your community. After thinking it through, review your network for supporters. You are the root for this coalition, but you still need a few diehard supporters. The more visible these supporters are, the stronger your foundation. They will help you by adding supporters from their networks. Once you’ve got your core group, meet with them to brainstorm a plan to move the cause forward.

7. Learn a new skill

When you open yourself to learning something new, you allow yourself to grow. You create mental and physical space to accept new intelligence, understanding and self-awareness. You will be pulled through shifts, emotions and into a clarity that is elevating. You’ll attract new people to you, because you are circulating in a new area of interest. Become aware of how your network begins to grow and the opportunities that result. Check your local community college or university, library, recreation department and even online sources for ideas.

8. Revisit “planted seeds”

I once sought out a man that was several states away to talk to about a business idea. He was in an industry unfamiliar to me, but perfectly positioned to help me develop the idea. Though the gentleman and I connected well, nothing evolved from the conversation. However, over the years, I sent him newspaper clippings and an occasional note whenever I noticed his career changes. Then, out of the blue, he called to discuss exactly what we had talked about years earlier. The right situation prompted him to make contact, and because I kept in touch, he knew how to reach me. Make it easier for people to connect with you by staying connected to them. Review old notes or business cards, and send these people an update.

9. Be unique in your communication

Rarely do I get a nice envelop with a beautiful hand-written address. Because it is unusual to receive such personal attention, it brings a smile when it does occur. I keep nice note cards on hand, so that my “thanks” or “touching base” notes are a bit a more special. One year, a friend of mine made beautiful Valentine’s Day cards to send. I saved mine for years, using it as a bookmark. A gentleman where I live maintained a database of friends and business associates to whom he regularly emailed local special events photos. Everyone loved them. Your extra effort is worth the memory it will create.

10. Barter

Bartering is simply swapping goods for goods or services for services (and any combination of those). I bartered with a carpenter to build an entertainment center in exchange for a freezer. Years ago, I swapped my personal coaching services for weight training from a celebrity fitness trainer in Los Angeles. He actually trained me via email and over the phone. I’ve known people to barter for their rent (house-sitting or handy-manning), and others who barter their marketing services for massages and computer help. There are bartering Web sites that will match you, but, however it is done, the important thing to remember is that there must be a complete mutual understanding of the end-result and all expectations. Put the agreement in writing. Check your own network for people who have created successful arrangements.


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Mary Kurek is a Networking and Marketing Coach, Business Consultant and Speaker. Her clients have included professional athletes, actors, speakers, broadcasters, musicians, real estate professionals and business owners. Mary is a former Governor’s Press Staff member and a Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. Her book, Who’s Hiding in Your Address Book is due to be released June 2007. Sample pages, articles, audio tips and more can be found here: http://www.marykurek.com/

Ideal Networking Tips for the Creative Entrepreneur
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