Network --- Grow
Our mission is to give you the tools, relationships, and environment to grow your business and help our community!
The Benefits of Small Business Networking
A study by Forbes listed the top benefits of in-person meetings as opposed to networking by technology. The top benefits were:
- Building stronger, more meaningful business relationships (85%)
- Better ability to read body language and facial expressions (77%)
- Ability to bond with co-workers/clients and more social interaction (75%)
- Allows for more complex strategic thinking (49%)
- Better environment for tough, timely decision-making (44%)
- Less opportunity for unnecessary distractions (40%)
- Leads to higher-quality decision making (39%)
- Easier to focus (38%)
- Fewer disruptions and delays (23%)
What Can Small Business Networking Do for You?
As an entrepreneur, networking is a key activity that can not only be enjoyable, but critical to your personal growth and business development. Small businesses thrive when they are able to grow together and build relationships. Networking is a valuable tool to give small businesses the most opportunities possible in order to thrive.
Building a successful small business takes a lot of time and energy, so it’s good to have a network of friends and associates to draw support from and help grow your business. By surrounding yourself with people who share a similar drive and ambition, you are more likely to move forward as a business and as a group. From attending events together, to sharing social media posts to business owners with similar industry focuses as yours – the more you network, the more you put your business on the map.
Networking and You
It’s natural that networking will result in opportunities that wouldn’t come along otherwise, whether it’s a referral, a potential partnership or a request for your product or service. The thing you will not know is when or how they will materialize. It’s important to be open to any possibilities and ready to seize opportunities when they come along.
Remember that you are not just gaining exposure to the people in the room - you are hopefully building connections with their network too. If someone they know has a need that matches your business, you are likely to get a referral as long as you made a good impression.
This kind of relationship is a two-way street as well. If someone in your network matches a business you encounter at an event, don’t hesitate to share their details. It will only strengthen your relationship and solidify your reputation as a reliable partner and good networking connection to have.
In connecting colleagues, it is always a good idea to confirm your network’s wishes. Always ask your colleagues if they are comfortable with you sharing their information. Not only is it a good practice in transparency, but it is also a tool for regularly engaging your network to stay connected.
It is also important that you know and express who you’re looking for in a client. If your colleagues are going to share your information, give them an idea of who you are looking for. This keeps your information in the top of their minds.
Networking and encouraging yourself to talk to people you don’t know may help increase your confidence. This is an important attribute as a business owner, because your business growth is dependent on engaging people and making connections.
Being good at what you do and delivering on your clients’ needs is the first step to important networking – people will hold on to the positive experience they received working with your business. Having a base of consistent, high-quality business performance will naturally lend itself to raising your profile and expanding a network of people with whom you have a strong level of trust and a mutually beneficial relationship.
Visibility and getting noticed is a big benefit of networking. By regularly attending business and social events, people will begin to recognize you, your brand and the product or service you provide. This can you help to build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person by offering useful information or tips to people who need it. You are also more likely to get more leads and referrals as you will be the one that pops into their head when they need what you offer.
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Know what networking can do for your business
When you go into a networking scenario knowing what you want to get out of it, you’ll be more likely to come away satisfied and feel like doing it again next time. Not sure what your goals are? Here are some networking tips that can help your business:
Networking can help you discover great local suppliers, retailers or logistics partners who can enhance your small business – and vice versa.
Meet a mentor
If you’re just starting out, or you’re a sole trader who would benefit from a sounding board for work-related matters, networking could be your route to finding a business mentoring relationship.
Boost your sales
Networking events aren’t primarily about sales opportunities, but they can definitely net you some new clients if the fit is right. More importantly, this is a group of people that can refer you to their network. Make sure you plan to reciprocate.
Build brand awareness
Getting your name known means you’re more likely to be recommended or referred to a wider network of people – another good reason for making networking connections.
Knowing your goals can make breaking the ice easier too. Try swapping notes with someone you’ve just met about what you want to get out of a networking event, and the chances are you’ll soon be chatting freely about your business stories and how you came to be at the event.
Remember what you have to offer
Don’t just go into a networking event focused on how you can benefit – think about what you can give other people in exchange. You might have specialist knowledge to share, give them a fresh perspective on a business challenge, or be able to introduce them to connections that could help them even if you can’t.
If you think about networking as a quid-pro-quo dynamic rather than a chance to sell yourself, you’re more likely to make authentic and lasting connections. Everyone remembers people who are helpful and interested in what they have to say.
Get prepped before you network
Doing a little bit of homework beforehand can turn your networking experience from ‘meh’ to ‘marvelous’.
If you’re attending a networking event, have a look at the list of people invited, and check out the social media coverage of previous events. This will help you get a flavor of the experience in advance, and can help with things like deciding what to wear and what to bring with you – is it a full laptop affair, or will your phone and business cards be enough?
Speaking of preparation, having plenty of up-to-date Business Cards at the ready is a must for networking events. There’s virtually no networking occasion where exchanging cards isn’t appropriate. As well as using them to share your details, you can get double duty out of them by using the reverse sides to jot down things like recommended apps or services for your new contacts. While digital cards are a modern way to spread your information, it can lack the personal touch. Use them in the appropriate setting.
Prepare an elevator pitch
This is a one-sentence statement about who you are and what you do – for example, ‘I’m a business coach and I help first-time entrepreneurs launch startups’, or ‘I’m a new design graduate starting out in freelance’. An elevator pitch makes introductions quick and easy when you’re meeting a lot of new people in a single event. Often times the first sentence needs to state clearly what you do and you will have 30 to 60 seconds to elaborate.
Be ready to transition smoothly between conversations
However well you’re getting on with the person you’re talking to, at some point you will both want to move on and speak to other people. Make this as smooth as possible by having a phrase prepared. Try something like ‘I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. I’d better chat to a few other people before I head home’ – or something similar which suits your personal style.
Follow up with a timely email
After your event, send emails to the people you’ve made promising connections with. Include a reminder of what you talked about and suggest meeting up again, if that’s something you want to do. A specific invitation is more likely to get results than a general ‘let’s stay in touch’. Email them within a couple of days of the event, when the conversation is likely to still be fresh in their mind. Many people will schedule a 1 on 1 to talk more in depth between events. This gives you the ability to take a deeper dive into their business and them into yours. Make sure that you have information to share with them.
Avoid your comfort zone
Attending a networking event with friends or colleagues can make things less nerve-wracking, but it also cuts down the possibility of making new connections, which is what you’re there to do. If you’re attending an event in a group, make a point of spending time without them and seeking out new people.
Know how to communicate
Another thing to limit is time spent looking down at your phone – an easy way to miss out on a life-changing business connection.
Following up from a networking event can be cumbersome and not all people are emailers. Some people use social media, while others are texters. Be flexible in your communications.
Dodge these common networking blockers
Social networking – the clue is in the name! Sites tailor-made for business, such as LinkedIn, give you multiple ways to connect with people working in your industry, and get introductions from people you know. There are also newsfeeds and forums where you can get join discussions and exchange knowledge on topics related to your field.
Most social networking groups have a Facebook page, sometimes a LinkedIn page. It depends on the group. It is not a requirement, so some do not have this feature.
You’re feeling too nervous to go
Anxiety about dipping your toe into the networking waters is common and absolutely natural. If you’re the shy and retiring type, we hear you. Meeting new people isn’t everyone’s favorite activity, and you can bet there will be plenty of people at any event feeling the same way.
To avoid conversational awkwardness, arrive prepared with a list of ice-breakers you can use to spark conversation – there’s a few to get you started in our guide to networking events for people who don’t like networking.
There’s no local networking ‘scene’
If you live in a remote area or the industry you work in makes finding common ground difficult, it might be tough to get into the rhythm of networking.
But there’s no law that says you have to do it in person – the magic of the internet makes small business networking a global thing. Whether social networks are already your forte or you’re a new kid on the block, here’s some inspiration for making business connections online.
Networking events clash with family commitments
Many small business owners are already juggling their businesses with families, day-jobs and other time commitments. If that’s you, the thought of heading off to an evening networking event or business breakfast can seem unrealistic or even unachievable.
Again, the internet can be your savior in this situation. As well as helping you to network virtually, staying connected online can help you pick and choose the events that are worth making time for. Being signed up to event mailing lists can help you plan well in advance for things you want to attend, whether that means organizing childcare, shuffling meetings around or booking the best dog-sitter in town.