Understanding Business Networking
The first thing to understand about business networking is that it leverages your business and personal connections to bring a regular supply of new business.
It involves relationship building, which may sound very simple, but, in fact, can be very complex. It is more than showing up, collecting a bunch of business cards and shaking a lot of hands.
This guide will help you understand business networking and provide you with the tools you need to successfully network for your business.
How Can Business Networking Help Your Business?
Business networking can generate referrals that can increase your business.
However, there are other benefits to networking such as the potential for joint ventures or partnerships. In business, it is often not what you know but who you know that leads to success.
Having excellent connections in place opens the door to highly influential people that you may not have been able to reach otherwise.
It can also provide a source of advice or the opportunity to develop a mentor who can help guide you in your business endeavors. Networking raises your profile among other business owners and help you develop a positive attitude.
You will find yourself as more confident as you begin to get more comfortable at events where you may have felt intimidated before. Because networking is a two-way street, you also gain satisfaction from helping other grow their business as well.
Making Networking Work for Your Small Business
The most important part of networking is making it work for you and your business.
There are several tips and suggestions that can help you start networking as well as help you during the networking process. These tips include:
- Join and become active in two different types of associations- Choose an association that is related to your industry or field, and another that has more of a general business focus.
- Share your knowledge freely- Consider giving presentations at no charge for a local Chamber of Commerce or other associations in which you participate. Donate samples of your product or service for fundraisers. Volunteer to write articles for smaller publications that reach your target audience. All these activities serve to increase your visibility while giving you an opportunity to showcase your expertise and generate good will.
- Provide referrals yourself – This not only highlights your credibility and connections, but it’s also likely to generate in-kind referrals on the part of those colleagues and associates for whom you’ve generated business.
- Recruit cheerleaders – Build a team of supporters for your business.
- Create an informal advisory board – Establish a group of professional advisors that you can call on to help you with planning and problem solving in your business. These may be associates you meet at a trade show or conference, someone you’ve done volunteer work with, or former client contacts.
Here’s A Few More Tips
- Do a good job for your clients – This strategy may sound like common sense, but it’s the most powerful one of all. When you do a good job for your clients, they not only bring you repeat business, but will send other business your way as well.
- Maintain visibility at the local level – Be an active member of your local business community. Volunteer for select nonprofits aligned with your field, attend Chamber of Commerce mixers, and participate in local activities as your schedule allows. The personal bonds you create can fuel new business opportunities.
- Put technology to work – Stay connected to your market and accessible to your customers by leveraging your time and reach with technology. Everything from voice mail, cell phones and desktop publishing to the instant communication via email and the Internet can help you.
- Have a backup network – If circumstances result in you not being available or able to complete a customer’s work, make sure you have a method in place to handle the disruption. Your backup system will ensure that the work gets done on time, and your customers will appreciate your professionalism and reliability-and send more business your way.
- Ask – Many entrepreneurs continually pass up this golden opportunity to build their business. Train yourself at the conclusion of a successful project to ask for your client’s business again, and to suggest that they pass along your name to others. Be sure your customers know that the experience of working with them was one you’d like to repeat, and that you’d like more customers just like them!