A popular saying in business is “It’s not what you know but who you know that matters.” The obvious connotation is that having connections will help your business go further and stay ahead of the competition. Assuming the playing field is equal in skill and technology, your ability to network and establish the right contacts in the industry could be the difference maker. Thus investing time in networking activities could help your business grow.
What Is Networking?
Networking is the process of interacting with people within an organization where there is a shared interest of establishing mutually beneficial relationships that could lead to business opportunities. Once you have acquired a sizeable network, your objective would be to leverage these connections to open up new streams of revenues for your business.
But many people get frustrated with networking. They view the activity as a waste of time because nothing was accomplished. The problem is they view networking as a social event not a business building opportunity.
So they take off from work and attend a networking function. They enter a room packed with industry movers and shakers. For the next 2 hours they shake hundreds of hands and collect a stack of calling cards. A few drinks and platefuls of hor d’oeuvres and they call it a night.
What has been accomplished? The success of a networking event cannot be measured in terms of calling cards collected. A calling card is nothing more than a piece of paper with a name, address and contact details printed on it. There is no relationship with a calling card. The question to be answered is, “How did your interactions create opportunities for business growth?”
As John Bennett, director of the Master of Science and executive coaching and assistant professor of behavioral science at the McColl School of Business at Queens University at Charlotte said:
“Between 60% to 80% of jobs are found through personal relationships.”
Keep in mind that not everyone who attends the function can contribute value that will move your business forward. That is why networking should be approached with strategy and purpose.
You should be mindful about your interactions; the people you meet, the relationships you establish and how you navigate these connections to achieve business growth. Everything that you plan to do at the networking event must be driven by your intent to expand your business.
Online Networking: Reach Out To More Qualified Connections
The Internet has made networking easier, convenient and more efficient through social media, email and professional networking sites. You can reach out to key people in your industry and connect with potential customers from the comforts of your own home.
In fact, with online networking, you don’t even have to actively seek out connections. If are consistently publishing and sharing content that are well-researched, keyword-rich, relevant and usable, people within your industry or community will be the ones to reach out to you.
And there are other advantages with online networking:
1. Qualify Your Connections –
Networking through online channels gives you the benefit of qualifying the people you want to connect with. For example, at LinkedIn, you can set the parameters of your contact search based on the following criteria:
- Country of Origin
Once you type in the details, LinkedIn will curate a list of candidates that fit your desired profile. You can also join focus groups that are involved in your industry.
Active members of these focus groups will frequently start a discussion on a topic that could be trending in your industry. Share your expertise by regularly participating in the group discussions.
2. Network At Your Own Convenience –
You can set aside time in the day or night for your networking activities. If you plan to use social media as your main avenue for networking, studies have shown there are preferred times for engaging in each platform:
|Social Network:||Days of the Week:||Times of Day:|
|Sun, Thursday, Friday, Saturday||9am, 1pm and 3pm|
|Wednesday||12pm, 3pm, 5pm, 6pm|
|Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday||7am, 12pm, 5pm|
|Sunday, Saturday||2pm, 9pm, 2am|
|Monday, Thursday||2am, 8am, 5pm|
Come up with a fixed schedule for networking. You can allocate one hour in the morning, afternoon and before bedtime. If you’re not posting or sharing content, try to connect with at least five people in the community every day.
Networking is a game of probabilities. If you send out 150 invitations to connect in LinkedIn every month and assuming a low success rate of 20%, you should have 30 new contacts.
3. Build Up Skill Levels –
Online networking is the ideal option for those who are not comfortable meeting people for the first time. Exchanges are done through the platform usually through engagement, personal messaging or InMail as with LinkedIn.
If you or your contact schedules an online call, you can prepare a set of questions, rehearse your approach and have notes about the contact and your business available nearby.
However, most if not all first time interactions online are done through video. While chat messaging is perfectly fine, face-to-face interactions come across as more sincere and authentic. Popular video conferencing sites include Skype, WebEx and GoToMeeting to name a few.
Networking online would be a great way to build up your interpersonal skill levels. Put it this way, you would probably attend two traditional networking events every month. But you could be having video conference calls on a daily or weekly basis.
5 Benefits Of Networking: How Networking Can Grow Your Business
Most people limit their networking activities at the startup stage. Once the business starts to gain traction they pull their foot off the pedal and shift their focus on running day-to-day operations.
Truth is you should never stop networking because there will always be opportunities available to grow your business. Networking helps you find these opportunities before your competition does. And it’s always just about finding new clients and customers.
Here are 6 benefits of networking that will help grow your business:
1. Generates Referrals
When people say they network to get connections, they mean it helps them generate referrals. To grow your business, you need to look at both sides of the profitability equation: cost and revenues.
Networking will introduce you to other businesses that can reduce your costs or add to your streams of revenue.
When you are frequently networking you are bound to run into someone who can refer you to an associate, a colleague or a supplier that can provide what you need at lower prices or prospects who may be interested in your kind of services.
The best part of networking is that the referrals have been pre-qualified. They can give you a personal introduction or endorsement to improve your chances of securing a meeting. There is no need to get past the gatekeepers who make it difficult to reach the main decision-makers.
2. Opens Opportunities
One of the best ways to network is to join organizations, associations or focus groups that are specific to your industry or have a common interest. These types of organizations are usually composed of highly motivated people who want to find new avenues to grow their business.
For example, you are thinking of crowdfunding an idea. A networking event is the appropriate venue to share your concept, vision and purpose for the product or service. You may meet people who would be interested to invest in your idea and bring it to fruition.
Another example would be if you are looking for strategic partners for your business.
Let’s say you want to streamline operating costs by outsourcing back-office work. By engaging regularly with an outsourcing focus group on LinkedIn, you may find a third party services provider that can effectively handle all of your Accounting, Human Resources and IT needs.
3. Helps You Gain Valuable Insights
Many networking events particularly those hosted by chambers of commerce invite key resource speakers. These are highly-successful business people who have made an impact in their respective industries.
Networking gives you the unique opportunity to meet up with these influencers up close and personal. You can learn their secrets to success particularly how they survived and thrived during the most difficult economic periods.
You can also connect with them on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Every few days you will receive useful advice from the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
But it’s not just from the tycoons that you can learn valuable lessons from. Within the community, there are people who have gone through adversity and difficult times while running their business. You can likewise gain valuable insights and share commonalities from their stories and experiences.
4. Enhances Your Visibility
As you attend more networking events or engage frequently with your social media community, you enhance your visibility. People will have a better understanding of who you are, what your business is all about and your capabilities in the industry.
You stay top-of-mind with many community members that if they hear or know of another business that needs your expertise, they can easily give you a referral. Regular networking can also lead to more website visits and additional likes for your social media pages. It might even give your website a boost in the search rankings.
5. Increases Confidence
Do you believe in the saying, “Personal growth precedes business growth?” What this means is that if you want to take your business to the next level, you have to first overcome your personal fears and self-limiting beliefs.
Networking can be a nerve-wracking experience for those who are not used to circulating within a community. But like every other skill, you must network constantly to become more proficient at it.
As you gain confidence, your networking approach becomes more natural. You will notice that people become more receptive to your ideas. The more you network, the more the process is hardwired into your system.
The key item to remember about networking is that you should focus on building relationships first. If you go into a networking event with your marketing machine firing on all cylinders promoting your business, chances are you will drive away opportunity before it knocks on your door.
A good way to view networking is to think of it like a dance. You have to lead your partner to where you want him/her to go.
Become a good listener, process the information, identify opportunities and once you find possible alignment, interject your value proposition.
You may end the evening or the online conference with nothing more than an assurance that they will keep your business in mind. Don’t feel dejected. It now becomes a matter of following up; nurturing the seeds that you planted so that your business will grow.
And it certainly is better than acquiring a stack of calling cards.
Do you have networking experiences or tips that you want to share? Please feel free to comment below.
If you want to know more about networking and how it can help your business grow, please don’t hesitate to contact us or send an email. We would love to hear from you!