Written by Cathy Gulli

Turns out it’s not just who you know, but when you know them that impacts your business success. “In a slow economy, people tend to rely more heavily on their networks for industry information as well as job and sales leads,” says Tracy Turner, executive director of The Creative Group, a California-based staffing agency.

Turner’s firm asked 630 adults in the U.S. if they network more or less compared to three years ago. Almost half (48%) said they’re forging more work-related connections. That’s because during times of fiscal fizzle, professional networks can serve as a safety net: the more people you know, the more people you’ve got thinking of you when an opportunity arises.

Here are Turner’s suggestions for making the most of your connections:

  1. Swap business cards. More than a formality, exchanging business cards shows a future relationship in the works. Your card should state professional specialty.
  2. Get them talking. Ask new contacts various questions about their industry and pay attention to the answers. You’ll find common ground on which to build relationships.
  3. Take notes. Jot notes about your new contact on the back of his or her business card. Use the info as a reference point for future encounters.
  4. Follow up. Within a few days of meeting, send a relevant online news article or Web link to new contacts. This shows you’re thinking of them.
  5. Make it a two-way street. The more helpful you are to others, the better your chances of getting help from them in the future.

Read other pointers on How To contribute to your business success!

© 2003 Cathy Gulli

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com