We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

While e do think that “what you know” plays a factor, “who you know” definitely makes a significant difference in finding success. Making the right connections can open up a world of opportunities for you and your business. But if you are just starting out how do you meet those people? How can you become part of an effective and engaging network that produces positive results? Do it through smart business networking.

Start by utilizing these 5 simple tips to make the best out of business networking:

1. Many types of business networks exist.

There are the traditional, in-person meet-ups where you join a group and meet regularly to exchange leads, or live events where you show up, hand out cards, and make quick pitches.

You can network virtually as well. Many computer applications allow you to video chat and hold conversations with people all over the world. Don’t discount the online social networks, either. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ can all be useful tools in connecting with those who share your vision and values.

2. When seeking out one of these networks, aim for diversity.

A diverse network will provide you with access to a wide variety of skills, talents, and connections. Never downplay or discount someone whose business doesn’t seem to match yours – you never know what connections or opportunities may present themselves down the road.

People chatting about business over drinks.

Instead, identify your own unique skill set and find people in different industries who complement you well. Joining a group where everyone is identical helps no one. In a diverse collective, you can each take advantage of each other’s aptitudes while helping to round out each other’s shortcomings.

3. Focus on the overall quality of your contacts, not the quantity of them.

It is much better to take part in a small group made up of deep, mutually beneficial, and supportive contacts than to be a member of a large group of superficial acquaintances who may provide little to no value in the long run.

Healthy relationships require nurturing.

The more contacts we acquire, the less time we have to cultivate those connections. Instead, strike a balance and only maintain a number of contacts in which you can effectively handle.

4. Focus on helping others succeed before working on your own success.

If you join up simply to get a lot of leads or just to see what’s in it for you, then you have the wrong approach. Networks work best when they help foster mutually beneficial relationships and open exchanges of ideas and support. So don’t focus on you, instead, aim to connect others.

People helping eachother.

If someone you know mentions a need, such as a good health coach or graphics designer, then think of whom you know in your network group who could fill that role. By listening and providing solutions, you’ll form strong connections with people that will last well into the long-term.

5. Put in your time and keep working at those connections.

Joining network groups rarely provides quick payoffs. You have to keep nurturing the relationships you make and proving your value to others.

When your network acquaintances experience the positive results from knowing you, then they will want to keep you close and reward your efforts in return.

Make sure to follow up on those leads and treat them well. Even if they ultimately decide not to go with your product or service, do right by your network contact by treating your leads with respect.

Keep building your business through relationships and soon you’ll be enjoying great success.