Running a startup isn’t easy as reciting your ABCs, it takes time, effort, dedication, and let’s not forget the sleepless nights, it’s like taking care of a baby, literally! But there are certainly ways in which you can make that process a bit smoother, and a lot more fun and one of them is: building the right network can be. Now the good news here is that in comparison to running your startup, building your network is a piece of cake!
But hold on, before you start getting your social butterfly mode on, know who you need to meet. An article I read said to: create buckets. You make 3-4 buckets of categories, for example: Investors, potential customers, mentors etc. This makes it easier and lets you reflect on what kind of key contacts you need for whatever stage you’re in. So remember, create your buckets first!
OK, now to the fun part. How to actually build your network?
- First, it would be good to know where they are – you need research like you do with everything else. Bahrain has a couple of social platforms that announces events for startups like Startup MGZN, Rowad, CH9, Tamkeen and some others that have their own events you can attend. Have your calendar ready and make a decision on what kind of events you need to be in. Invest your time in the right places – doesn’t mean you can’t go to any networking event to network that’s a bit irrelevant!
- Ask the big people, especially the “GateKeepers” – If you already have some big contacts that you’re in touch with, then make use of them! Ask them about any recommended events coming up in Bahrain or anywhere else. Don’t be afraid to ask, you’ll actually be surprised how approachable they can be. Sometimes you might even get invited to join them for upcoming events! So always keep in mind to network and meet different types of contacts because the world is truly small, and Bahrain is smaller.
- This is a fun one: do it with your friends! Gather your startup friends in the same community and catch up. This is simple! You be a good friend, exchange information and see what events they have attended to exchange contacts in this case. Create a Whatsapp group and start exchanging. You will keep everyone motivated to share and then a pool of wonderful things will start to happen.
Now we got some ideas on the “where” but really how do you build those networks and keep them?
Let’s assume you went out of your comfort zone and got yourself some pretty neat contacts. Now, how do you keep them?
- Create a contact tracking template – this helps track who you’ve met and who you haven’t. A clear picture of your activity on a simple template can go a long way so you should definitely try this method! Customize it into a way you can see the buckets you’ve defined and your specific names, designation and the last time of contact.
- Make time in your schedule every week – For at least 2 catch ups, call them. Once you figured out some time slots, email them and see if they’re up for a coffee, and think about why you want to meet with them beforehand. Also, remember to add that in the email, for example: “I hope to meet up since I’m ……and would love to get your insight on……”
- Share your happenings – This is an interesting one I like. If you have a blog or newsletter, try sharing it if it’s relevant to their industry or a topic that might interest them. At least you are keeping in touch in a different way without being direct if you don’t need to meet them often. Even if you are attending an event or something interesting is happening in the startup space, you can casually share that with them.
- The nice to meet you emails – This is an old one yet important: always send emails. You can create a ready email template to send a bunch of people you met at large events. However, I ALWAYS recommend being personal of course to specific people.
Hope these tactics helped! Try some and add them to your routine of building your network. It’s not easy but it can be. It’s also fun once you ease into it!