Networking may be the lifeblood for business owners, especially those who have virtual businesses like I do. In some ways a networking event is a meet and greet where you tell who you are, what you do, and what kind of business partner you’d like to work with. You may meet decide to connect with a person or two from the event and meet for coffee to get to better know each other and that is great. But what happens after that? In some cases, not much.

I’ve built a community with those with whom I do business and network with. These are people who I’ve gotten to know and trust. I’m comfortable doing business with them and are confident that others will, too. Building a community means having more frequent conversations, staying in touch through social media or email, sharing referrals and referral sources, and reaching out when you need advice or referrals.

How can you build a community? Here are some steps:

  • Know that not every person you meet will be a fit for your community. Once you find someone that you think would be a great community member, endeavor to find out more about him or her. Ask about their family, hobbies, what community projects they’re involved in, find out their birthday so you can send a card.
  • Expand your community. Sometimes bigger is better, but you don’t want a community that is so large that you can’t connect with the members. You will best know your capacity to interact. Expanding your community also means inviting in professionals with other skill sets. Incorporate social media professionals, other accountants, lawyers, business coaches, and others into the community so you can learn from their expertise and new perspective.
  • Take time to build your community. Not all business interactions will bear fruit immediately. Have patience and build your relationships. Like a fine wine they will become better with age.

What do you do to enhance your referral partnerships? Have you considered community building?

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