Wow, that’s a loaded question. But it’s one you need to consider as you embark upon your next phase of networking.

Maybe you’re just getting started. Or you once did a lot of it and you need to dive in again.  

Or you’re a true pro and it comes naturally to you – and you’ve stayed on top of the trends. Whatever phase you’re in, asking this question is important, because it helps you focus on what we’re calling “The New Networking,” or the best ways to network now.

I hope anyone reading this article will walk away with solid, actionable tips they haven’t seen previously. And that they’ll be genuinely excited to become a master networker. 

So, let’s go!

There Are 3 Types Of People You Want In Your Network

We’re making this simple for you, because networking really starts with people connecting with people – so getting the right folks involved paves the way to success. So, there are three types of people you want in your network:

1. Ideal Customers

2. Ideal Partners

3. Ideal Friends

When trying to determine who your ideal customers are, you want to ask yourself, “Who do you want your network to introduce you to?” 

And you’ll likely try to define these people based on the industries your company serves, how easy they are to work with, and whether you’ll get along with them. 

You know who your customers (or clients) are now and which ones work best for your business. The people you believe you can serve best, who will appreciate what you do, and, in turn, refer other people to you, come closest to your “ideal customers.” While that may seem broad, sometimes small business owners try to narrow their focus by also listing qualities they don’t want in a customer.

So, Who Are Your Ideal Partners?

For ideal partners, you want to find other business owners who have related businesses to 

yours. Or they share the same types of “ideal customers.” Beyond that, they also can be suppliers servicing your industry.. 

Ideal partners are very important. If you choose the right ones, you’ll maximize the referrals you can give and the referrals you can get, resulting in a cycle that strengthens and  expands as time goes on.

One other secret most don’t tell, but I will is: the more you can find other givers like yourself, the better off you’ll all be. And if you’re more of a taker than a giver right now, then try to be more of a giver – you’ll get a lot farther faster in networking – and in life.

What Type Of Person Is An “Ideal Friend?”

So, we’ve addressed ideal customers (or clients) and ideal partners. That leaves us with “ideal friends” to discuss. To figure out who your ideal friends are, ask yourself: “Who do you share things in common with?”

In other words, if you’re a minority business owner, you might want to reach out to other minority business owners to discuss special government contracting programs created to benefit you.

Or maybe you’re under 30 and running your own business. 

Or you’re single and ready to mingle (with like-minded entrepreneurs). 

Or you have other interests like the best way to coordinate food deliveries for your restaurant. 

Or you’re an empty nester and want to connect with others who can relate. 

Cutting to the chase, an optimal way to find people in similar life stages, or with other things in common, is to join an Alignable Group. Here are just a few where “ideal friends” can emerge:

Or let’s say you want to get to know as many business owners as possible in Glen Ellyn, IL, a western suburb of Chicago, where you also live. Reaching out to people in your town using Alignable’s search functions could work well. 

Or if your region or town has a Group already, you should join it. One that’s popular already is the North New Jersey Group

You could open all kinds of referral opportunities for yourself or others pursuing these options, not to mention the chance to stage big local networking events, where new ideal friends, partners, and customers could surface.

How Vanessa Unites Ideal Customers, Partners & Friends, So Everyone Benefits

You can harness great networking power by finding and maximizing your relationships among your ideal customers, partners, and friends. But when you’re also helping all of them to do the same for themselves and their extended networks, that’s when the magic really happens. 

To illustrate that scenario, I wanted to share Vanessa’s networking story, which has really become a way of life for her.  She’s an ideal customer for some, an ideal friend for others, and an ideal partner for many, while blending everyone together into many overlapping referral relationships. 

Vanessa is a 37-year-old, third-generation funeral director in Michigan. While she certainly has a unique profession and family business, there’s no one I know who taps more different small business people for her work – and for her recreation time, when her work day ends.

Here’s a conservative list of all of the ideal customers, partners, and friends she generates over just one month (or two). 

They include: 

  • Florists who regularly supply flowers for funerals.
  • Caterers who are tapped for celebrations of life after funerals, where the living console each other amid big feasts.
  • Liquor Store Owners who provide the wine and other drinks for celebrations of life. 
  • Chefs, Bartenders & Waiters/Waitresses who handle other details for large receptions. 
  • Limo Services that often take family members to wakes, funerals, burials, and receptions. 
  • Officers who manage traffic around services, burials, and more. 
  • Clergy who offer consolation and words of remembrance.
  • Massage Therapists – Soon after a funeral, Vanessa and her ideal partners, friends, and even some customers will often gather at a local place to get massages and chill out. They regroup and recover, before embarking upon the next funeral.
  • Mediums & Other Counselors – Vanessa’s group of ideal partners and friends also enjoy exploring the spiritual side of life, given how often they have to deal with death (which can be many times per month).  In fact, Vanessa’s well-known for having large psychic parties with mediums and other counselors helping everyone with often uplifting perspectives on life, death and what comes next. 
  • Beyond all of these “ideals,” Vanessa is a single Mom of two, who employs babysitters, and matchmakers to guide her on finding the next Mr. Right, as well as make-up artists, hair stylists, and nail technicians. They help her with preparations for everything from funerals and wakes to big ladies’ nights out with her ideal partners and friends.
  • Adding up all of Vanessa’s ideal customers, friends, and partners over the course of a month, you see that she networks with (and generates business for) 30+ small business people. If you also count families and friends of those who have passed on, that number goes up to 100 or even 200. Think about all of the networking power she harnesses just to get her job done, and then to unwind and regroup with her ideal friends, partners, and customers. 

Vanessa’s example also highlights the importance of developing strong relationships with ideal customers, partners, and friends. In fact, their roles tend to blur the longer Vanessa works with them (and invites them to her parties). In the end, most of them become friends, who are eager to recommend her to others in the community.

Vanessa’s networking is just one of millions of examples of small business people who have really made the most of finding their ideal customers, partners, and friends, where it’s second nature for her – and a major driver of her income, professional life, and social activities.

How Alignable Can Help You Find Your “Ideals”

Before I wrap up this article, I want to summarize how you can find these ideals for yourself on our platform. Here are three shortcuts:

Import all of your contacts

One of the fastest ways to expand your Alignable network is to import your contact lists (or at least some of the people on those lists, as there’s an option to choose favorites). To import contacts, follow this link.  

Search in our Groups to identify your “tribe(s)”

As noted earlier, Alignable’s Groups are a goldmine for generating new ideal partners, friends, and customers. Go here to search for Groups that reflect your town/region, demographics, hobbies, interests, and even the type of networker you are. It makes sense to join at least three to five groups to maximize your chances of finding your desired “ideals.”  

Another group I highly recommend for anyone is one that I formed with our Groups Leader Barbara. It’s the 2022 Local Biz Person Of The Year Group with 10,000+ members, who just love our contests and networking. 

While this particular contest ended in February, that doesn’t mean this group is inactive. In fact, it has many of the biggest givers on the platform and some of our best networkers. 

Pro Tip: Contact the Top 10 winners of this year’s contest and ask for their networking help. Many love to find new ideal friends and partners, and others just love to share their networking advice with newbies. Here’s a fun recap of the last contest, which identifies these networking aficionados. It also discusses how participating in any of our contests is like networking on steroids, so stay tuned for the next contest, get involved and have fun with it.

image of the Top 10 winners of Alignable's Local biz people of the year for 2022, our best networkers

For all of these reasons and more, this group is one of the best-kept secrets at Alignable and a must-join for people who want to find ideal partners, friends, and maybe even customers, too. 

Become An Alliance Ambassador

Alignable’s new Alliance Ambassadors are pros at cultivating ideal customers, partners and friends.  And they’re enhancing and expanding those relationships by staging large, in-person events across the U.S. and Canada, as well as virtually, bringing local members together to make new “ideal friends.”  

If you want your networking to really blossom, you should consider becoming an Alliance Ambassador.  New Ambassador Jim Stetzer explains how he maximized his networking through his Alliance in this story.

So, I hope you feel empowered to go out and dive into networking with great vigor. It can be fun, very rewarding, and one of the best ways to generate referrals, great relationships, and new business.

Small Business Networking Guide

Are you networking the RIGHT way for business growth? Learn more about “the new way of networking” and how it can have a positive effect on your business.

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