While the swift cut-and-parry of creation is the heart of an inventor’s life, there is another important component – networking. Let’s face it; no matter how great your invention may be, you can always benefit from talented professionals in your field that might be willing to lend a hand. Maybe it’s that database programmer you’ve been scouring the earth for, or that distributor you need to get your product on store shelves, or a patent attorney to make sure your intellectual property is protected. Whatever the case may be, there are steps you can take to put yourself in the path of networking success. In this article, we will examine five of the most helpful. By applying these tips to your day-to-day efforts, you will increase your odds of meeting the people you need to move your invention forward.
1) Have a clean, approachable website.
The benefit of having a simple website to send people to cannot be stressed enough. Let’s say you are at a party or industry conference. Suddenly, you meet a new colleague and the two of you get to talking about your respective projects and goals. As the conversation comes to a close, the colleague asks you, “So, how can I stay abreast of what you’re up to, how can we keep in touch?” If you are networking-savvy inventor, you will reply, “Oh, no problem! My website is www.JohnDokes.com, it has all my contact information and what I’m working on. Check up on me there from time to time!”
This is extremely simple to do. Your website does not have to be flashy or fancy; a clean, black text on white background HTML layout will do just fine. As mentioned, your website should include your name, profession, hobbies, and areas of expertise, achievements, and maybe a periodical blurb about what things of importance you are working on at the time.
2) Print business cards and carry them at all times.
But what happens when you meet someone on the fly? There isn’t always time to scribble down web URLs or phone numbers, and lack of preparedness could kill an otherwise great networking contact. Fortunately, this does not have to befall you. The solution is a timeless standby of professionals everywhere: business cards! Simply visit your local Kinkos and print up 200 standard business cards with your name, e-mail address, mobile phone, and anything else you deem relevant. Then, make a point of carrying 5-10 of them in your wallet with you at all times. With business cards in tow, you will be able to capitalize on networking opportunities wherever you happen to be – on vacation, at restaurants or coffee shops, even in the grocery store. You truly never know when you will meet someone important.
3) Consider a separate phone line or wireless phone for professional purposes.
While not an absolute necessity, you need to consider how a potential contact or partner might perceive you. If they call your house line and hear lots of family commotion in the background, it might send the message that you are ill-prepared to take on a serious venture of any kind. Whether this is reasonable to infer or not, perception is reality for many people. Therefore, it might make sense to get a separate landline or wireless phone for your professional needs. You would then print this number on your website and business cards instead of your house phone. A wireless phone is best because you can carry it with you and never miss an important call. In addition to upholding your professionalism, doing this also helps you delineate between different areas of your life.
4) Follow leads wherever they may appear.
Anyone who has been in business for long knows that leads and opportunities can crop up almost anywhere, at any time. It is not uncommon for new business partners to meet on vacation, over dinner and drinks, or while playing golf at a country club. Therefore, you should keep this in the back of your mind and be ready to pounce on new opportunities as they arise. If you are out on the green with someone and you get to talking about your professions, there is no shame in “testing the waters” and seeing if he is interested in new projects. Do not assume that just because you aren’t in a business setting, you cannot pursue business leads. Truly successful inventors are creative and resourceful.
5) Use the direct approach whenever possible and appropriate.
Many people take a passive approach to life. Instead of acting to bring about some outcome, they simply hope it comes to be through osmosis. When it comes to networking, this attitude is a death sentence. If you want to meet the best people and bring them into the fold, you need to proactively seek them out. Let’s say you are in desperate need of a graphic designer, for instance. Throw up an ad on Rent-A-Coder that says you’re looking for one! Better yet, ask around your circle of friends and contacts to see if they know anyone with the skills you need. This is how networking happens. Of course, you should seek to establish some kind of relationship with a person before you just mine them for contacts. You wouldn’t want to bombard someone you just met. But by all means: once you are on good terms with someone, feel free to ask them who they know.
Apply these tips to your inventing and you will soon find that networking is not so difficult and it can make the difference between a successful invention and a failed one.
Eric Corl is the Founder and CEO of IdeaBuyer.com, the online marketplace for intellectual property that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com.