Networking is important for those who want to make their name and move up in the business world. Whether you’re a startup owner or work in a major business, learning to the network is a key skill to help continue business expansion. So let’s look at what networking means and why it is so important.
What is networking in business?
Networking is the process of establishing a working relationship with other businesses, business people, or potential clients, which is mutually beneficial.
Networking can happen in a variety of places:
- Organised meetings
- Networking events
- Online networking platforms (such as LinkedIn)
- Trade shows
- Coworking office spaces
RELATED: What is a Coworking Space?
Attending any of these events can present great opportunities; to share knowledge, experience, and interests and learn about job opportunities trends and key people that can help you progress in your field.
For small businesses, in particular, networking and developing new connections can help put your name out into your community and gain people’s trust by putting a face to a brand. These initial meetings can be a great chance to show off your industry knowledge, creating a positive first impression of your company which will leave your new contacts interested and excited to see your next move.
Why is business networking important?
Effective networking can save you time, effort and stress, meaning that when you get it right, networking can unlock many opportunities and help you on your way to success.
So why is networking so important, and what can it do for your business?
Find new business opportunities
Having contacts in the industry can help you work your way into niche markets and offer collaboration opportunities. Working with another established business can open doors. By doubling your experience, workforce, knowledge and following, you’ll have the chance to output a great product with a large audience to release it to.
You may also find that you can reflect on your current business practices and discover new avenues you can take with your company in the future through communication with other industry professionals.
Getting your name and product out there whilst providing positive experiences will likely gain you referrals. Whether they are from clients, coworkers or industry professionals, referrals can help your name get around, turning one new contact into 20 and 20 into 50 as the networking process continues even when you’re not actively engaging in it. Referrals can lead to better job opportunities, promotions, more clients and even industry awards.
Share knowledge and help others
As we mentioned earlier, networking is a process that is beneficial to all parties involved. Sharing knowledge and supporting your contacts is a great way to build trust and learn something new that you can take back and test out in your job or business. Similarly, giving advice demonstrates an idea of your knowledge, and people will trust your judgement more if they can take your advice, implement it and see the benefits come through.
Building brand awareness
The best way to build brand awareness is to talk about your brand. Networking allows you to draw attention to your projects and discuss your hopes for the future – if you’ve sold yourself well enough, people will go away wanting to know more and are likely to search you up when they get home or back to the office.
Access a fountain of knowledge
Having a variety of trustworthy contacts means you have a selection of helpful resources at your fingertips whenever you need them.
How to use networking to grow your business
There are many ways to use networking to benefit you and your business, and by implementing a few core skills, you’ll find yourself on the way to making great connections in no time. So, how do you make sure you absorb every drop of value out of your new connections?
- Work with quality, not quantity. Identify the “critical few” and ensure you keep regular contact with them.
- Ensure your relationships are mutually beneficial. Remember that you are a networking contact for the other person as well, so the more you give, the more you’ll receive. Offer value to the relationship, and you’ll find the partnership to be worth more in the long run.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out and follow up on conversations. Show your interest by making the first move and if you say you’ll send over deliverables, keep to your word. Be sure not to make the first move only when you need something though – this won’t go unnoticed.
- Use social media to stay in the know and keep others in the loop. Use networking platforms such as LinkedIn to keep in touch with your “critical few”, as well as a range of lower priority contacts more casually. Engage via commenting on posts and sharing your thoughts, finds and projects – this will start conversations and allow you to keep in touch with many contacts quickly and with minimum effort.
Small business networking
As a small business, it’s important to get your name out there to put yourself on the map to show the larger, more established businesses why you deserve to be recognised.
- Define your goals – How many meaningful connections would you like to make by the end of the event? What kind of contacts are you looking to make, and what would you like to get from the potential relationship? How many people would you like to approach?
- Take part in events, meetups and groups – Get yourself into the communities you want to be a part of and make yourself a familiar face in the crowd. Consistency is key and will show your reliability and willingness to show up and communicate.
- Do your research – Look up whos attending events and what they’re about. Going in with prior knowledge will help you streamline who you want to make conversation with and allow you to consider valuable questions that will impress others and leave a good first impression.
- Connect and engage – If you know someone you’re truly interested in talking to is attending the same event as you, drop them a message in advance to break the ice before you meet. Introducing yourself online can be a great way to disperse any nerves if you struggle to be bold and walk up to strangers.
- Work the room – Asking questions, joining group conversations and heading into events with a brief summary of who you are and what you do can all be great ways to work the room and make the most of your networking time.
Local business networking
Sometimes, keeping it local can be the best way to develop contacts with people who are genuinely passionate about your business’s growth. Often, homegrown, smaller businesses are keen on sharing their experiences and knowledge with others like them. So, networking locally can be vital to understanding your closest clientele and the secrets to growing your business within your community.
Coworking spaces can be a great opportunity for networking for businesses or freelancers, as people come and go frequently, and you never know who you might be sharing an office with. Taking the chance to get to know those you’re sitting with is a great way to network from the comfort of your own desk.
Here are some simple ways you can get networking in your local area.
- Be recognisable in your day-to-day life. From picking up your daily morning coffee or hitting the gym to grabbing your groceries, wear a smile, don’t be afraid to start a conversation and get to know your neighbours. These are the people who are most likely to be your clients, so being a friendly face is a great way to give a good first impression.
- Work with other local businesses. Whether you’re a graphic designer who can help advertise your local bakery, a bridal shop that can promote the local florist or a greengrocer who can sell your products to a local restaurant, working with other businesses can be a great way to support one another.
- Get involved with your community. Keep an eye on your community events and stay in touch with local charities – showing up and contributing to your neighbourhood, city, or town can be a meaningful way to develop a relationship with potential clients. From carnivals to fundraisers, volunteering your time can break down a barrier and show the human behind the business person.
- Communicate. If there’s not a WhatsApp chat on the go, why not start one? Share local news and business updates and keep neighbouring businesses in the loop, offering advice and support to one another.
Ensuring small businesses near you do well is a great way to help keep your communities and local high streets bustling with variety, community and uniqueness, so keep networking!
Benefits of networking in business
Networking isn’t always a fast process, and you don’t always see the payoff straight away. So what benefits can you look forward to seeing when things start taking effect?
- Better business connections
- More opportunities
- More knowledge
- New ideas
- Improved confidence
- New perspectives
- Better established business profile
Why not network in the office? Book a coworking space and meet a range of new people from the comfort of your desk.