I’ve chatted with a lot of people about good networking practice and one of the questions that pops up quite frequently is: “I would really like to help other people, but I don’t know anyone who needs what they are selling.” While, it’s true, referrals are a great way to help your networking partners, it certainly isn’t the only way. Let’s take a look at a few other options.

  • Nominate them for an award. If you discover an award for which they would be suited or if they mention one to which they aspire, do a little research. What are the nomination requirements? How does the application process work? They don’t have to win the award in order to feel appreciative toward you for helping them achieve this recognition.
  • Volunteer your time. Do they have a project they are working on which could use your expertise? Offer to help. Oh, and what you offer doesn’t necessarily have to be related to your business. Heck, maybe they just need someone to help them move or perhaps they are going on vacation and could use a friend to take care of the house while they are gone.
  • Give them advice. If they mention that they are having trouble with their computer and you just happen to be an IT wizard, you can give them a pointer or two on how to get their systems marching in line. Of course, you’ll need to decide at what point your friendly advice becomes something for which you should be charging, but at least for relatively small things, the goodwill you purchase with your advice will make it all worthwhile in the long run.
  • Invite them. If you are attending an event which might suit them, extend the invitation to attend as your guest. I wanted to emphasize that last part there. If you invite, it is your responsibility to take care of any cost for entry. You might check with the show-runners. Many groups give free passes to invited guests. You’ll also look good to the event organizers since guests often become new members.
  • Get them a speaking opportunity. Many people prospect for new business through presentations. They are always looking for the chance to speak to an existing organization. Are you a member of an organization who makes use of outside speakers? If it’s appropriate, make the connection between your networking partner and the event organizer. They’re both likely to thank you.
  • Connect them with some other media opportunity. Radio, TV, newspapers, etc — depending on your networking partner’s desires, they are all great options for prospecting. If you know someone in one or more of these industries, you might find out from them for whom they are searching right now. If you know someone who fits, be sure to make the connection.
I’m sure there are hundreds more options for helping out your networking contacts. Take some time to think through as many different opportunities as possible. The more you have in your repertoire, the more likely it is that when the question of helping them comes up, you’ll be ready and willing.
Of course, I’m sure they won’t mind if you happen to connect them with a little bit of business, too.
Photo credit: Tomasz Szkopiñski