What comes to your mind when you think about professional networking?
Handshakes, smiles, and events with other professionals will most likely be your answer. And you’d be correct—up to a point.
While many people cringe at the prospect of attending a networking event, for others it’s their go-to approach to socialize with other professionals in their field.
But what if I told you, you could have your cake and eat it too? I’m talking about networking and meeting other professionals without leaving the comfort of your home.
It’s all possible with the right business networking tool.
But why’s networking so important?
For starters, networking gives you access to the people and opportunities essential for your growth. It’s an avenue to connect with like-minded individuals in your field, brainstorm ideas and learn. And for professionals, networking is a game-changer—the key to their success.
According to Zippia’s recent research, 79% of Americans say networking is crucial to their career progression. So it’s not uncommon to see many business professionals fast-track their careers just by having the right network.
However, despite the many benefits of networking, only 48% of people actually stay in touch with their network.
The question—Why does this happen?
If you’re like most people that find it hard to keep networking and making new connections, it’s mainly because of these two reasons:
- You’re not using the right business networking tools
- You’re approaching business networking the wrong way
And that’s fine. Many people don’t know their way around professional networking.
Thanks to the internet, professional networking has moved beyond in-person interactions. With online platforms and tools, you can easily connect with people, build relationships and get mentorship to grow your business.
In today’s guide, we’ll be covering top business networking tools along with five networking tips to help you make meaningful connections and build stronger professional relationships.
Top 8 Business Networking Tools
1. Blinq: Easily Share Your Professional Identity With Digital Business Cards
The first step in networking with people is exchanging your contact information.
Blinq offers an easy way to create a memorable first impression and share your identity when networking online and in person. With Blinq, you can create a quick digital business card containing all your professional details and share it with a single tap.
Bling allows you to
- Impress new contacts with QR code-powered business cards.
- Personalize your business card.
- Securely share your card with anyone, anyhow you like. You decide.
- Customize your contacts with personal notes.
- Automatically save personal information from digital business cards.
- Create multiple profiles and cards.
- Promote your business on the go with customized company identity cards.
- Manage customer details and keep contact information up to date.
If you’re connecting with people physically, they can get your information by scanning the QR code on your phone or apple watch without even having the Blinq app.
When networking online, simply email, text, copy the link to your business card or share it any other way you prefer directly from the Blinq app.
Additionally, Blinq automatically adds the contact information from any digital business card you receive to your phone. It also allows you to attach personal notes to each contact. For example, you can record where and when you met, the things you talked about, and when next you’re scheduled to speak or meet.
One great feature I love about Blinq is the extensive level of customization it gives.
Your card can contain any kind of professional information, from your company website address to social media details and even online payment links like PayPal and CashApp.
You can also
- switch the Blinq brand colors to yours,
- customize your QR code,
- create an email signature, and
- add virtual backgrounds to share your card over video chat.
It’s simply amazing.
Take a look at my card below. See how I replaced the Blinq brand color with mine and added my Calendy meeting link. Now, clients can book a meeting with me without even visiting my website.
And that’s not even all.
Blinq lets you create multiple profiles and cards so you can control the information you share and with whom when networking.
My favorite part about using the Blinq card to network is that it eliminates the need to inform my network about changes to my personal information. That’s because every profile you create on Blinq is live. So, the tool automatically keeps your details up to date.
If you’re a company, Blinq business makes it easy to manage your organization’s professional identity. With up-to-date digital business cards customized to your branding, your team can network and promote your company on the go.
Blinq also integrates with CRM platforms like Hubspot, Salesforce and Azure AD. This means you can effortlessly manage your contacts and keep customer information up to date and ready for follow-up, all from a single dashboard.
So what are you waiting for?
Create your free digital business card today, and start networking.
2. Hunter.io: Find Emails of People You Want to Network With
Whether you’re meeting people online or at physical networking events, sending an email is a surefire way to start a conversation, connect, and keep a relationship going.
To find the email addresses of people you want to network with, use Hunter.io, a successful email-finding tool trusted by millions of professionals worldwide.
Hunter helps you find emails of specific persons within organizations. For instance, as a freelance B2B content writer and marketer, I’m always looking to connect with and pitch my services to B2B companies.
So, with Hunter, I effortlessly find email addresses of decision makers like content marketing leads, SEO managers and marketing managers within companies I desire to work with. From there, I pitch them, make enquiries or connect with them.
And this works for every other kind of business.
Use Hunter’s domain search tool to find all the email addresses associated with a specific company. Then, filter the result you get by department, type or even company data.
And if you know the particular person you want to connect with within an organization, then use the finder tool to fetch their email in seconds. But that’s not all the finder tool does. It also tells you if the email address you’re searching for is verified and where it was found.
Hunter has a chrome extension you can install on your browser to quickly find emails anywhere on the web when you visit a website. If you find email addresses elsewhere, quickly pop them into Hunter’s email verifier tool to confirm they’re correct and valid.
Andrew Gonzales, the Co-Founder and President at Business Loans, says his company has had great success using Hunter to find emails for networking with decision-makers and high-level executives from various companies.
“Hunter takes the guesswork out of cold communication and replaces it with valuable data to populate our CRM database,” he says.
3. Lunchclub: Make Professional Connections, Powered by AI
Away from in-person networking events, online platforms have proved very helpful for bringing people together to connect and build relationships.
One such platform is Lunchclub, an AI super-connector that facilitates virtual calls between business professionals with similar interests.
Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you’re a business owner or professional looking to grow your network. When you sign up for Lunclub for free and provide basic information about yourself, your goals and your interests, the AI platform will make personalized introductions and connect you with other professionals who match your interest.
"When I was actively growing my business network and looking to meet investors, I signed up for Lunchclub. I indicated that I was interested in speaking primarily with investors, and the platform would match me with investors looking to speak primarily with early-stage business owners. I met a number of business professionals with extremely impressive accomplishments, many of whom I'm still in contact with today.”
— Calloway Cook, President at Illuminate Labs.
Every day, the platform will recommend about 10 topics and people you could be interested in following and connecting with. They are called “daily picks.”
These recommendations are based on your goals and interests. If you’re interested in connecting, Lunchclub will introduce you. Then you can start chatting away and arranging calls with users.
To turn the heat up, put meeting people on autopilot by blocking time on your calendar. Then, Lunchclub will automatically schedule meetings for you with new people that match your profile. Just don’t forget to check the box at the bottom left corner so it can match you with people in your area.
For a free platform, Lunchclub is more time efficient and effective for networking than meeting someone in person for coffee.
Alex Birkett, co-founder at Ominiscient Digital, a content agency, says the connections he has made from Lunchclub have resulted in several interesting conversations, one of which became a client.
4. Slack: Communicate, Collaborate and Network in One Place
In recent years, Slack has evolved from an intra-company communication tool into a powerful networking platform. Professionals across different fields use private, invite-only slack communities to network, share job leads, and exchange career advice.
For freelancers and other service providers, gaining access to your industry’s slack community can put you in front of hiring managers and potential clients. But that’s not all. Slack forums also present an opportunity for you to connect with industry peers, share knowledge, and learn from experts.
It, however, starts with finding the right community.
For instance, Superpath is one of the leading slack communities in the content marketing space. It’s a supportive group of marketers, SEOs, content managers, company founders and freelancers looking to network with potential clients and hires and learn from each other.
With over 11,500 members, the Superpath community is like an insider club with a constant flow of collaboration opportunities, gigs and meaningful conversations.
Take a look at the screenshots below.
By actively networking on slack communities, you can make connections that open career doors and take your business to the next level. For example, B2B SaaS writer Sanketee Kher says she has found several clients on Superpath by answering questions and sharing her portfolio.
Other notable slack communities include Demand curve and Product Led Growth. In fact, almost every industry has a slack community. Find one that’s relevant and start making connections that’ll move your business forward.
To find slack communities in your industry, google “slack community” + your career field. Or ask people in your network about relevant groups they belong to.
5. Twitter Communities: Join Conversations That Create Opportunities and Improve Visibility
If you’re already on Twitter, joining a community can help grow your network on the platform.
Twitter communities are similar to Slack and Facebook groups. They’re dedicated forums where like-minded people meet to forge new connections and discuss issues that interest them.
But more than chatting about fun things, Twitter communities present opportunities for collaborating with industry peers and experts while increasing brand visibility.
By actively interacting with community members, you can build genuine relationships, stand out as an expert, and land new clients.
For instance, I landed my first content collaboration opportunity by connecting with a freelancer I met on #FreelanceChat, a Twitter community for freelancers.
Several other communities exist within every industry. Find the right ones, engage in meaningful conversations, and make connections that can positively impact your business.
Even though Twitter communities can connect you with potential clients or customers, refrain from using them as an avenue to advertise yourself 24/7. Instead, concentrate on being helpful and adding value to the community. This way, it'll be easier to build trust and credibility, which will result in business connections, referrals and growth.
6. Newsletters: Discover Growth Opportunities, Stay Updated, and Gain New Perspectives.
Although newsletters sometimes get a bad rep, they’re an excellent medium for discovering business opportunities and keeping a pulse on your industry.
Within every industry and niche, there’s a plethora of newsletters. While some tend to be very promotional, others focus on sharing ideas, growth/job opportunities and keeping their subscribers updated with the latest industry news and trends.
John Bonini’s Some Good Content is one awesome newsletter in the marketing industry. The practical frameworks, expert interviews and job opportunities he shares help subscribers sharpen their skills, discover industry experts to network with and grow their businesses. For example, Lily Ugbaja, the Founder of marketingcyborg.com, says she recently scored a freelance client by responding to a job posting in the newsletter.
Also, Kaitlyn Arford, freelance writer and journalist, runs a newsletter where she shares weekly job opportunities for all things freelance.
One way to discover notable newsletters in your industry is to ask other professionals in your network. Finding the right newsletter may take some leg work. But once you do, you’ll benefit from the rich knowledge and opportunities they share.
7. Buzz Sumo: Get the Insight You Need to Create Great Content and Grow Your Network
After making connections online, the natural way to build professional relationships, keep conversations going and earn trust is by creating and sharing valuable content.
And Buzzsumo is the right content marketing tool to help you do that.
Buzzsumo takes the stress away from content creation by giving you insights into the type of content your network finds useful.
Its content discovery feature helps you find common knowledge gaps you can close with helpful, in-demand content.
This way, you can create content that answers important questions and form opinions that’ll make your network perceive you as a valuable, relevant person. And the outcome of such perception is increased connections, credibility and business growth.
Quick tip: Sharing your knowledge and expertise with your network enhances your reputation and establishes you as an authority in your field.
8. Clay: Manage Your Network and Stay in Touch With the People That Matter
What’s more important than making new connections in business?
You guessed right.
It’s maintaining relationships with the people in your network.
Successful business networking doesn’t end when you share your business card (or Blinq digital business card for that matter!) You need to stay in touch and check in regularly to increase your chance of generating referrals.
Clay, a new relationship-building software, works like a personal CRM to allow you keep in touch with your network regardless of the channel or platform you’re connected on.
Once you sign up with Clay and connect your Gmail, social networking platforms, contact and calendar, it’ll build a collection of your people so you can find all their details in one place.
With Clay, you can say goodbye to entering contact details manually or switching between apps to stay updated about the people you’re connected to. Because Clay automatically populates all their information, including work history, photos, location etc and keeps them updated over time.
But that’s not all.
Clay lets you know when something significant happens to someone in your network. From job changes to special recognitions in industry publications to location changes and birthdays, you’ll get all the updates so you can celebrate your people in time.
The best part about using the networking tool is that it lets you search for your people the way you remember them. You can search by event, organization, where you met or what you talked about, and Clay will find the right person or people based on their profile and your notes.
For example, when I search for SaaS on my Clay app, it brings up a list of my network who have SaaS in their profile and on my notes. It pulls this data from the different platforms we’re connected on.
From here, I can click on the particular person I want to reach out to, and Clay will show me all their personal information available on the web.
With Clay, you can prioritize your network into groups, stay connected and show that you care without breaking a sweat.
Now that we know the tools you need to make professional connections, and maintain your relationships, let’s look at the best practices for successful business networking.
Five Tips for Successful Business Networking
Professional networking exposes you to the collaborations, partnerships and mentoring opportunities necessary to grow your business or freelance career.
By implementing these best practices, you’ll network efficiently and make better connections.
1. Always Give First
“A lot of people approach networking from a what can I get from it aspect, and that’s a shame because networking is about other people. The best deals, referrals and opportunities will come from just giving to people when you don’t need them yet.”
Networking only at the time you’re desperate for help is the wrong way to network.
The truth is networking is both a skill and a mindset, with its most important aspect being generosity. By generosity, I mean committing your time, effort and resources to add value to people without any guarantee of immediate reward.
When you focus on giving to others, you’ll be able to hold meaningful conversations, build and nurture genuine relationships that’ll help move your business and career forward.
2. Be Proactive
Networking is more than joining slack communities, connecting on Lunchclub or sharing your Blinq digital business card.
Instead, it’s about actively seeking out opportunities to connect with people, learn from them and build relationships. This could involve sending cold emails to kickstart a conversation, joining conversations on socials, sending DMs to share a helpful resource you found or attending virtual/ in-person industry events and conferences.
3. Be Genuine and Authentic
People want to connect with real people. So whether you’re networking online or in person, be yourself. Be honest about your goals, your offerings and accomplishments. But try to avoid bragging!
4. Always Follow Up
In networking, the profit is in the follow-up. The connections you make while networking are only effective if you follow them up and keep in touch. Following up keeps you at the top of your contact’s mind when opportunities that you’re an excellent fit for show up. Things like sending personalized emails or texts, reaching out regularly on socials, and meeting up for coffee or lunch are great ways to follow up and keep your relationship going.
5. Be consistent
Networking is a long-term play that requires ongoing effort. If you’re networking on online platforms, commit to spending at least an hour daily connecting, engaging and conversing with people. If you prefer to network at events and conferences, then resolve to attend more frequently.
Ready to Grow Your Business With Professional Networking?
Then, never pass up an opportunity to network by getting your Blinq digital business card today.