“Relationship networking is about who you know and more importantly, who knows you. Building the right network can open new doors to future success in your business.” – Heidi Richards Mooney

Effective networking is all about making connections and creating long lasting relationships with other business professionals. And networking is still one of the most successful ways to “market your business offline.”

Relationship networking is about who you know and more importantly, who knows you. Building the right network can open new doors to future success in your business. Here are 21 tips to help you build a strong network..

1. Begin with the end in mind. When attending networking functions, define your objectives. Determine what your goal(s) is/are for every event you attend. After all, your time is valuable and having a goal makes the effort more crystallized in your mind.

2. Develop a plan of action for how best to “work the room,” or meet people. Put your plan in writing and you are more likely to stick with it.

3. The handshake is important. People judge one another based upon the “grip” of the hand. If it is too firm, you may be perceived as overpowering or superior, if it is too weak, you may appear wishy-washy. Practice with a family member or friend until you feel comfortable that yours is just right.

4. Make good use of the nametag. It should be worn on the right side for easy reading. You might want to put your first name and company slogan on it – or a “clue” as to what you do professionally. These are both great conversation starters.

5. When shaking someone’s hand, introduce yourself.

6. Say your name clearly and with authority. Tell the other person what a pleasure it is to make their acquaintance.

7. Ask what the other person does. Then offer your 10 second commercial about what you do. This is not the time to tell all – don’t elaborate unless the other person asks you to. Creating a cleaver, memorable commercial that doesn’t bore someone, is sure to get attention.

8. Ask the other person for her business card. Comment on the card.

9. Offer your card after you receive hers, if it is appropriate to the conversation. Most of the time, when you ask someone for her card, she will return the favor by asking for yours in exchange.

10. When the time is right (appropriate) jot down a note about the other person, something that will help you remember her or him.

11. Before any formal program begins, be sure to mingle with the guests. This does not mean to meet as many people as possible, rather to meet two or three (or however many time will allow), where you can make a solid connection.

12. Talk “small.” General networking conversation is polite, courteous and non-threatening.

13. Move around. If you have spent a sufficient amount of time with one person, it may be time to meet others. After 7-10 minutes, it is okay to excuse yourself with a polite “it was a pleasure to meet you.” After all, the other person may also wish to meet others and you will be perceived as a true professional.

14. After the event follow up. If you offered to send the other person something or give information, be sure to do so.

15. Do your homework. When you meet someone you wish to stay in contact with, do a little research on the company. Find out their interests and goals.

16. Send thank you’s to your new networking contacts and to the person(s) who organized the event.

17. Reciprocate. If someone gives you a referral or offers you a lead, find a way to return the favor, even if it is simply in the form of a thank you.

18. Targeted networking will offer the most potential for success. Make a list of the places your customers and potential customers are likely to “hang out.” It could be trade shows, civic or non-profit organizations, professional associations, schools, the gym, etc.

19. Host an event to increase your networking reach.

20. When appropriate, bring give-aways to meetings to get more attention

21. Review your networking action plan, your contacts and those events and functions to which you attend. Keep attending those that make sense and find new ones to replace those events which are not a good fit for you.

Offline networking can be spontaneous and rewarding. Networking can happen anywhere, at anytime. Your next referral could come from a neighbor, a colleague, a friend or a friend of someone you never met. Always keep in mind that the more you give to the networking relationship, the more you will get in return. When you are perceived as a giver, people naturally want to give back to you.