Business networking is one of the most powerful marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.  In fact, the ability to exponentially grow your business is directly proportional to your relationship with your network.

Therefore, one of your best business investments is relatively inexpensive — if you know how to maximize the time you allocate to creating an unlimited pipeline of solid referrals. Learning a few tips from the experts on effective networking could conceivably be worth its weight in gold.

Anyone who has mastered the art of networking knows that every person you meet is a potential business resource. On average, each person knows about 250 other people to potentially introduce to someone else. That´s why networking can happen anywhere, at anytime.

With that in mind, it´s worth developing a knack for starting conversations with strangers, regardless of what we were told as children. As adults, we´re now free to open up to a whole world of people whom we can help or who can help us.

So how do you open that door to the world of networking?  Here are my top ten tips to turbo charge your business:

1) Whenever you go out, wear a prop. They´re great conversation starters. For example, if you´re a woman in real estate you might consider wearing a pin that says “sold’. A man might consider a tie that reflects an interest.

2) Be observant. Is someone else wearing a “prop’ or carrying an interesting book? If so, ask them about it. Approach them with a smile and greet them like an old friend. Open-ended questions will get the ball rolling.

3) Be where your target market gathers. If your clients belong to a certain organization, attend its functions. You can even go to your local bookstore and start conversations with people who pick up books on your area of expertise.

4) If you have a special interest, join organizations where you can share it with others. People are more open to working with those they feel a common connection with and like. That´s why some of the biggest business deals of all times are sealed on golf courses. Camaraderie opens doors to greater opportunity.

5) Make formal networking part of your business plan. Do your homework and select groups whose members best fit your criteria for strategic business partners. Them join at least two business referral groups and participate wholeheartedly.

6) Adopt an attitude of gratitude and remain proactive. Stay in touch and always thank anyone who sends you a referral or other useful information. Likewise, keep an eye out for articles that might be of interest to someone else and send it along with a personal note or suggest getting together for coffee.

7) Know the basic rules of the road for networking events:

a) Small talk leads to big talk, so be up on current events.

b) Circulate and talk to the people you don´t know.

c) Be a connector and act as a host or hostess by introducing others and making them feel at home.

d) Be interested and interesting.

8) Fine hone and practice a concise, memorable 30-second message about what you do. Focus on the benefits you provide (your top three), identify your target market and say it with a unique twist that makes it memorable.

9) Always remember the golden rule: “You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression.’ So dress professionally, have business cards readily accessible, never sell anyone, and deliver on any promises you make.

10) Establish yourself as an expert by increasing your visibility. Learn how to become a resource to your local print and broadcast media. An increased presence will increase your influence and your profits.   

In short, incorporate these ten tips into your networking efforts and you will be repaid with the richness that comes with meeting amazing people and the opening of doors that lead to endless opportunities.

Rhonda Sher is author of the best selling book, The 2 Minute Networker, and its accompanying workbook. Her works are endorsed by networking masters such as Patrick Henry, the fishing coach.To learn more, please visit www.2minutenetworker.com