Aren’t you just so darn proud of the glorious and mighty tree you have in front of you? All that dedication in watering, pruning, soil digging, and … sunning (?) has paved the way to a thriving tree with considerable height and value. Even with a sturdy trunk and lush evergreen leaves, a tree is most beautiful with a handful of birds happily chirping within the branches. That’s when you know that the birds are attracted to the tree because it provides all their basic needs for survival. In turn, they help the tree with the pollination process.

Just like there is a relationship between the tree and birds where each one benefits from the other, networking is crucial for your company. It will widen your circle of influence and bring collaboration opportunities to bring in more business and publicity to both parties. What is the best way to attract all these birds to your branches?

Hit up every networking event you can. There are several small business networking events held throughout the year and it will be wise to attend most, if not all. These events will usually have a roster of all the attendees so do your research about them before the event day. Just like going to a job interview or meeting your spouse’s parents for the first time, you want to show how much respect and interest you have for their careers and accomplishments. One word: LinkedIn. Plus, aren’t we all flattered when someone knows a small piece of information about us? And make sure you can pronounce their names correctly! It is a terrible thing if you and a business owner spend the first two minutes within meeting having a round of first and last name annunciations. That’s just awkward.

Prepare yourself with three major networking tools. First is your business card. A business card is as important to a business owner as a hammer is to Thor. Yes, it is that serious! Therein lies months of blood, sweat and tears all encompassed into a 3.5 by 2-inch piece of paper. Fill it with the basics: your company logo and its respective colors, and contact information (office address, phone number, fax, email address, and maybe a call-to-action to follow you on your most active social media platform). But please do not be that person that spams the whole room with their cards, leaving a pile on every table, restroom counters, or slipping it into people’s pockets. Hand them out genuinely and with purpose!

The second tool is what I consider your Intro. The Intro is of course introducing yourself and what your company does, but it is more of a story you are sharing, not a sales pitch. Many people will spend hours trying to perfect their Intro, but you have to remember that you will be having a one-on-one conversation, not performing it on a stage. Different people will react different ways so just keep in mind the message you want to convey but be flexible on how and when you deliver it.

Oh yeah, and two drinks max please.

Third tool is something you do after the event, which is to follow up. Who were the ones that you have connected with the most? Shoot them a small email within 24-48 hours thanking them for the lovely chat and briefly mention any small topic that you discussed with them at the event that is non-work related, such as the latest episode of Sons of Anarchy or the new yoga studio that just opened up. This makes a more human connection and makes them feel warm fuzzy feelings towards you that maybe they don’t have with other candidates.

Then, express interest in working together in the future and suggest meeting over coffee to discuss the possibility and details. Lastly, create an email signature that includes links to your Twitter or LinkedIn, so it looks professional and gives your fellow business owner an access way to access your sites.