Networking can bring many benefits to you and your business. Networking involves meeting other likeminded business people, who might share similar interests to you. They might be able to assist you with help, advice or even collaboration and you could help them in return.
An important thing to remember about networking is, very often it does not result in finding new business at the first meeting, or maybe not the second or third. It is all about building relationships with other business people, not about going in for that quick sales opportunity. It can help provide you with an abundance of local contacts within your local business network, as it is important to get to know your other fellow small business owners and entrepreneurs.
We thought we would outline some of the main benefits that networking can bring to you and your business.
Networking gives you the opportunity to connect with other businesses. By establishing relationships with other people across various industries, you will find you have a variety of other small businesses and entrepreneurs you can call on for support when you need it.
The best way to do this when you go out networking is to get chatting with people and find out more about them and their business. The important aim of any networking event is to talk and find out more about people, tell them more about you and your business when they ask you.
We all have to start networking at some point and people are often nervous at their first event. But the more you do it, the more confident you will become. Everyone at the meeting has had to start networking at some point and you will usually find people very welcoming when they see a new face. At a face to face meeting, there can often be groups of people that like to chat amongst themselves, but don’t be afraid to go over an introduce yourself.
Once you build your confidence, there are often opportunities for you to have your minute to talk about you and your business.
One to one catch ups
If you meet someone you would like to find out more about, ask for their business card. Be clear that you are interested in their business and ask if you can have a one to one with them to learn more about their business and build more of a ‘work’ friendly relationship.
The most important thing to do is make sure you follow this up by sending an email or a quick phone call. Don’t leave it too long, or they might forget who you are.
Not everyone you meet networking will be the right business for you to do business with. But by introducing yourself and finding out more about their business, there are always opportunities for referrals.
When you find someone else is looking for a particular product/service, you might find you know the right person and can suggest someone as a potential lead for them. People never forget when someone has been helpful and you often find this helps to generate referrals back to you.
When getting to know other businesses, you might find they offer a product or service that complements your business. So it would be beneficial for you to join in collaboration to offer linked products/services or refer your customers/clients to each other.
This could be from hosting an event together, running a special offer together or even sharing a marketing campaign.
Share your knowledge
One of the great things about networking, is there is such a range of diverse business people present. You can often find there is some great advice to be shared and by sharing your knowledge and experience, networking will help you in expanding your knowledge and allow you to view things from a different perspective.
Many groups have speakers of the week, you could ask for the opportunity to do this. You can ask advice from other group members to find out what type of talks they would like. So the talk does not have to be something to promote your actual business or service, but be providing a presentation on how to do something that any business could benefit from. By sharing your knowledge on a subject, you are more likely to stick in someone’s mind then if you just go in with a sales presentation. If you can find a way to make your presentation interactive with the audience, this will also make it more memorable. But try not to put people on the spot with questions, ask your audience to participate, but let them choose if they would like to join in.
Build your reputation
Once you have spent some time networking, you find that your credibility and reputation will grow. As you meet new people, they will get to know you and your personality. As more people get to know you, you will get more opportunities and will be able to help others too.
By regularly attending business and social events, people will begin to recognise you. This can help you to build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person. You are also more likely to get more leads and referrals as you will be the one that pops into their head when someone is looking for what you offer.
- Don’t be afraid to take the plunge in networking as everyone had to start at some point.
- Ask lots of questions and get to know the other people in the room before you start over promoting yourself.
- Try to attend your networking groups regularly, as there are many more benefits to being a familiar face.
- Draw on other people’s knowledge and experience.
- Always be prepared with a quick USP about you and your business, so if you get the opportunity to introduce yourself to the group as a whole, you say the right things to be remembered.