When it comes to manufacturing, due to the extensive range of applications, processes, and specialties, increasing your network of available resources is important. It can provide your business with a core focus and supports valuable relationships that often are mutually beneficial. Whether it is another shop or the people you meet at trade shows and other networking events, as the old saying goes, it is often not what you know, but who you know.
Networking is important because it allows you to gain essential development of your business and can provide you with job opportunities that you may not have had access to. It can also provide insight on specific shortcomings that you, as a manufacturing professional, may realize are unique to your location. Maybe there is a need for a shop or facility specializing in heat treatment, additive manufacturing, fabrication or another specific process.
Our industry’s trade shows also provide an exclusive range of networking potential. These regional, national, and international events allow you to meet with not only product and service providers to find the best solutions, but also with fellow manufacturers, educators, and other like-minded individuals. You can share your own personal insights and gain a wealth of information right from the trade show floor. Of course, networking shouldn’t come from these trade shows alone. Past employees, clients, personal friends, and even family members can provide a crucial initiation point for your next big job. A referral from a close mutual connection can dramatically increase the chance of speaking with decision-makers.
Digital networking cannot be ignored either. Social networking platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram provide a public presence to not only build relationships on your own, but also for others to connect with you. Currently, LinkedIn, the more business-oriented social network, has over 645 million registered users alone. Almost acting as an online resume, users can connect and learn about others’ past and current professional experience. Many of these platforms provide groups focused on a particular subject to further develop networking relationships.
1. It’s Not All About You
Focus on the person you are speaking with. Learn their background, and any commonalities you may share. You never know what you may learn speaking with someone.
2. Never Forget the Importance of Business Cards
In a world that is increasingly digital, the benefit of a traditional business card may seem like it isn’t as important today as it was decades ago. In my experience, business cards provide a quick and easy reference point to who you talked to, what they do, and what company they work for.
3. Build Your Contact List
After all the handshakes, information exchange, and generally getting to know a client or contact, it is especially important that you have a way to stay connected. Business cards can be scanned, or the information entered manually in your own contact lists.
4. Follow Up
Whether it is a simple email, a phone call, or in-person, staying connected is just as important. Out of sight is often out of mind, staying present can strengthen your network. A good networking relationship should never be a one-way street. Build on your relationship, follow up with your contacts. Your network of contacts can be further strengthened by connecting others with the product and service providers you already trust. Building these key relationships can allow you to work far more efficiently and effectively.