f you own a small business, you may have heard mixed reviews about networking and certain groups that encourage it. But networking can be a great way to promote your business.
Networking can allow you to find new opportunities for work in lines you may not have previously considered. You can build your existing customer base and find potential business partners or staff.
If you’re running a business from home, it’s also a great excuse to get out of the house and meet some people instead of staring at the same four walls. After all, peers can help you solve problems or attract the attention you may need.
Here are a few reasons why you should give business networking a go, from Neil Debenham, a Corporate Consultant, who grew a kitchen worktop business to a six-figure turnover within a few years.
The most popular reason to network? To generate business leads.
Using the contacts you make when you meet people opens lots of doors for business opportunities. Networking is a great way to make this happen.
Make people take notice by introducing yourself at meetings, making a spoken contribution in raising an issue or solving a problem. You can use this opportunity to meet new people and get to know them – and get rid of a few business cards!
At an event make notes and get as many business cards as you can. Make sure you stay connected with those you have met and email while they are fresh in your mind. Store numbers in your phone for when you need them!
Identify best practices
A very valuable strategy in business is to learn from what others do and how to use it in your own company. Networking is a great way to do this.
By connecting with other people, you can build relationships, exchange ideas and learn ways to stay visible. See what others are doing well and apply it to your business.
There’s no better way to get your brand noticed and the more events you attend, the more well-known your business becomes.
And of course, from contacts come referrals.
If you attend networking meetings regularly you begin to be seen as reliable and trustworthy, which are great things when you’re running a new business.
So, this isn’t the same as getting leads.
Neil Debenham, says: “You may spend half an hour talking to someone and then realise at the end of that they’re completely unfit for supplying you with work and you think, damn, I’ve absolutely wasted my time. No, you haven’t… because that person many know eight people who are a perfect fit and can provide you with projects galore. No time invested in networking is wasted.”
Approaching networking events as a great chance to talk about yourself is fine. It is. But remember that it’s also a time to share and people will want to be listened to. Be an active listener and remember to laugh and share similar stories.
Meeting other business people and talking about business is a great way to learn. Finding out about others in different industries can help you generate new ideas and adapt others’ innovations. It’s important to remember that entrepreneurs share a vision – and that is to succeed in business. They generally therefore are energetic and must think outside the box to gain new customers.
It’s great to share problems with others as they may have great solutions that you hadn’t thought of. They can also encourage you to keep going when times are hard.
Although we focus on business, regularly meeting with the same people can mean you get to meet some friends for life. By sharing your enthusiasm, ideas and problems you’re certain to find like-minded people. Strong friendships teamed with good business alliances make for a good force to build your network, says Neil Debenham.