Every entrepreneur needs to build up connections and working relationships in order to be successful. Whether attending events filled with potential customers or visiting a conference where you’re on the lookout for a new supplier, networking effectively can bring you numerous opportunities that could propel your business concept to the next level.

It might be an essential part of forging a business but networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If it’s an area that you struggle with, these five networking hacks could be just what you need next time you’re heading to an event, meeting, or other location where pitching your business and vision might be needed.

Remember to listen – When you’re promoting your business it’s easy to focus on what you’re offering but remember to listen too. At networking events, some people are so eager to share their knowledge and give their elevator pitch that they fail to pick up on opportunities that they could take advantage of.

Make your pitch a story – Business pitches can be dull so turn yours into a story. Giving your business a personal touch and elements that people can connect with can really help you stand out from the crowd. It gives you a chance to show off a variety of positive attributes, from your work ethic to overcoming challenges.

Do some research – You could turn up to a networking event and just go with it. Or you could spend some time beforehand doing some research and reap the rewards. Where possible, have a look at who will be attending and identify who would be the best fit for your business plans but don’t set a rigid plan either.

Make sure you follow-up – How many events have you been to in the past where you’ve met interesting people but failed to ever speak to them again? It’s a networking pitfall that many fall into. Don’t waste the time and energy you’ve put into making connections, make sure you follow them up too. It can be as simple as dropping them a quick email to taking the time to arrange another face to face meeting.

Focus on building personal connections – At events you can spend a little time with lots of people but focussing on a few can yield more results. Taking the time to really get to know people and finding something you have in common outside the world of business can improve opportunities and make sure you’re remembered. Being friends can give you an in.

But in today’s digital world, networking in person isn’t always possible and using technology can open even more doors for your business. Getting online to build connections can be just as valuable as heading out to events.

Bonus hack – The internet is filled with niche sites and business communities. Find a space that reflects your enterprise and showcase your knowledge. Offer advice, show off your insights, and build up your business’ reputation through engagement, it can have a big impact on how connections view you.