Helping business owners with mental health issues, Start Small but Dream Big
Networking – why you HAVE to do it
You’ve almost certainly heard the word ‘networking’ in your business life. Maybe it induced an eyeroll as you imagined brash individuals scattering around business cards while loudly explaining how amazing they are. Or perhaps you find the idea of talking to people you don’t know, to try to promote yourself, daunting, fake, or even a bit ‘dirty’. However, networking not only offers real benefits to new businesses, it is vital.
What is networking?
In the simplest terms, networking is people who have skills, services, or products to offer, meeting to form mutually beneficial relationships. As Entrepreneur.com explains, it is not about selling, but instead building up trust and regard. As the cliche goes, people do business with people.
Why should I be networking?
Networking is a cheap and effective marketing tool. You are making direct contact with people who may need your service, or know people who do. It requires a little time and, depending on where you network, perhaps a small attendance fee, but it is well worth the investment.
AmazingBusiness.com lists nine great reasons to network but, as an overview, networking isn’t just promoting your own business. When networking, you’re likely to meet people whose services you will need at some point in the future, such as accountants and solicitors. There is often an agreement between members to offer discounted rates. It can also benefit the relationships you have with your own clients. Chances are that at least one of your clients will need one of those services too. If you are able to recommend someone you know and trust to them, it will further cement their confidence in you.
Where do I network?
You can network anywhere! When people find out that you have your own business, they often ask what you do. Take the time to give them a brief explanation. You never know if they might need your service, or know someone who does. However, as this is very ad hoc and unpredictable, a more structured form of networking should be considered.
Across the world, there are official networking groups in many towns and cities. Some are part of a global brand, while others are local or regional. Whichever they are, all have the same aim: to help local business people meet, share ideas, and build their businesses. While everyone there will have a product or service to sell – and you will be expected to talk about your business – you should not expect a hard sell from anyone.
How do I choose a networking group?
Groups are different, in their outlook and their culture. It will depend on their members and their ethos, even those that are part of a global franchise. Many groups allow you to attend two or three meetings before you have to join. Take advantage of this and attend as many different groups as you can. This will allow you to get the feel of different styles before committing. AndrewAndPete.com offer some great tips in this article.
Be aware that networking groups usually allow just one, or at most two, people providing the same service or product. If you approach a group and they won’t let you attend, don’t take it personally. It is likely that they already have a member or two offering what you do. If this is the case, ask if they could suggest another group.
How do I find a networking group?
Ask a friend or get online! My article here lists 6 of the best networking organisations. For those in the UK, the website FindNetworkingEvents.com has a good, searchable directory. For elsewhere a search for ‘business networking groups <<your city>>’ should bring up a few suggestions.
This article covers the benefits of networking. In my next couple of articles, I will cover some of the best known networking groups, and what to do to get the most of attending. In the meantime, have a great day!
Start Small – Dream Big is the blog for small business owners with big ambitions who are managing mental health conditions