Running an online business can mean a lot of hours spent alone in front of a computer. In fact, it can be easy to lose site of the fact that we’re making products for real people in the wider world. Although we have to bust the hours to make everything work behind the scene, unless we’re out there networking and being involved in the community, we’re really stunting the growth of our brands.
In a broader sense, networking involves building contacts, maintaing relationships and using those connections to promote and further your business. In terms of running a clothing line, networking basically means using your personality and people skills to hustle your brand whatever chance you get.
For years people have been using connections to further their careers – think of the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know”. The reality is you can be the top graduate from your class, have a head full of knowledge and a sparkling resume but all of that still might not land you a job, whereas the guy that barely passed his final exams could easily end up being your boss just by knowing the right person in the company.
So how can you build your networking skills and use them to further your clothing line? There are two main areas to focus on, online and face-to-face.
Since your clothing label is likely to be initially based online, this is a great place to start building relationships that will benefit your business. By now, everyone should have a Facebook and Twitter profile set up for their brand at the very least. But the key to social media networking is to participate – these sites were made with the intention of being social, so that’s what you have to do.
For people to follow you, friend you and be interested in you and your brand there are some basic things that you need to do:
1. You need to be a real person – this means being personable, honest and approachable. Simple things such as using “me” instead of “we” when talking about your brand makes you appear to be just a regular person and allows others to get a sense of the person behind the brand.
2. You need to be interesting – Let’s face it, in real life and online no one is going to want to be friends with you if you are boring. People are interested in surrounding themselves with interesting and inspiring people, so that’s what you need to be.
3. You need to be friendly – While being a jerk can sometimes work in your favour in real life, there is absolutely no room for this attitude in the business world – especially when it comes to networking. You are the face of your brand and the way you treat people is going to reflect directly on the way they see your brand.
4. You need to be social – this means not quietly lurking social media sites, but actively seeking out connections through conversations.
tip: I also recommend getting a profile on every social network you can think of just for visibility, if nothing else.
A little more daunting than online networking is the face-to-face version. The rules are basically the same and when done well can lead to some incredible mutually beneficial connections as they can be much more personable.
The real difference between online and face-to-face networking is that there is nowhere to hide – you have to be on point and bring your personality to the table 100% of the time. Every single person I meet is someone who I could potentially help or they could help me – so it’s important to me that all of those connections go as smoothly as possible.
Always carry business cards with you and hand them out to everyone whenever you can. You never know who you might meet and how you could work together to mutually benefit each others business.
tip: when it comes to networking, try not to have a “take and take” mentality. You will get so much more out of your relationships if you think in a “give before you take” sense. Helping other people out when you can is a great way to make solid connections and build a productive network.
I know it can be a little intimidating at first, especially if you tend to be on the shy or awkward side. But taking the time to invest in building relationships is a really important part of building a successful t-shirt label. A solid and broad network of customers, bloggers, other business owners and inspirational people can help push your brand to the next level, helping you overcome difficulties and working as word-of-mouth marketers for your brand.
Thanks for taking the time out to read this article and feel free to comment and share.