Networking is a vital aspect of expanding you business, but there are definite right ways and wrong ways to use it. You want to network in a way that helps you build relationships and does not push people away.
1) Always carry plenty of business cards, but do not throw them at people. Take the time to speak with them and learn about them and their business. Offer the card have you have had the opportunity to converse for at least a few minutes.
2) Use networking platforms like LinkedIn, but do not be spammy. Nothing turns people off faster than someone who sends out many invitation requests, but either only sends the generic wording to complete strangers or makes the entire invitation a sales pitch. Use the invitation as an opportunity to ask questions about the other person, discuss things you have in common, or find some other way to connect. Really, the only time you should use the generic invitation is when you have already met and introduced yourself to a person and you are connecting with them on LinkedIn while you are speaking.
3) Follow up with people. Try to make it a regular practice to follow up with people with whom you have connected with over the pat few weeks. Again, focus on the relationship here. Remember people’s birthdays or other major events in their lives. Offer congratulations, condolences, and other personalized greetings. Also take the time just to reach out and see how things are going for them.
4) Bring up business once the relationship is established. Once you have taken the time to get to know the person, then find the appropriate ways to bring up business. Perhaps suggest how a relationship might be mutually beneficial or offer to help them on a project in exchange for a referral.
Finding ways to build your network will be very valuable for your business, but it must be done in the right way. Most people quickly reject attempts to connect that are overtly sales-y or spammy. Focus on building genuine relationships and you will have much more success.