Creating or maintaining a small business can be difficult at the best of times, and it can be hard to get your business off the ground.
Regardless of the industry, size, or location, your business is sure to stand a better chance of success if you start networking effectively.
Before you reap the benefits of networking, it’s important to understand what networking is, and the key benefits of business networking. We’ve got you covered – keep reading to learn more about networking, and how you can utilize networking to help your small business.
What Is Networking?
Networking is essentially the act of connecting with others. Meeting a colleague for coffee, attending an online meeting, or even the act of exchanging business cards are methods of networking.
Business networking allows you to connect with like-minded individuals as well as people from completely different backgrounds and industries, and can help you and your business in a variety of ways – whether it be improving your skills, boosting your reputation, or simply sharing ideas or giving and receiving feedback.
Typically, networking is a two-way street – you’re there for others to give advice, share ideas, and discuss business with, and they’ll be there to help you. Networking is more important than ever for businesses – the more people there to support you, the more your business will grow.
As a business owner, developing professional relationships and helping others can not only help you gain clients and generate new business but can help you grow your business as a whole.
In 2023, there are more ways than ever to network. You could attend online networking meetings, attend sessions in your local community centre, or utilise networking platforms such as LinkedIn or Clubhouse. You can network from the comfort of your own home, or go out and connect with others face to face.
At MOVE, we host regular networking sessions which enable you to network with people from all kinds of industries while enjoying the fresh air. If you’d like to learn more, check out our Netwalking Page.
How Networking Can Help Your Small Business
The benefits of business networking are endless, whether it be personal benefits or professional benefits. Here are some ways that networking can help you and your small business, from improving the reputation of your brand to finding potential employees.
Improve Brand Reputation
Networking with others is a great way of improving the reputation of your brand. The more people that you connect with regularly, the more people that know and recognize your business, and ultimately trust your brand.
When networking, it’s important to leave a good impression. If you’re networking online, be careful with what you post – and be sure to engage with others’ posts. Too many businesses have made the mistake of posting or sharing something controversial which has led to a damaged reputation.
It’s also important to help others and give advice when possible. This is a great way of securing a positive reputation – and can also help you land more clients and generate more business.
When you network with someone, their network essentially becomes your network. If you’re looking for potential clients, then somebody in your network may be able to help you out and connect you with the right people from their network.
Networking isn’t necessarily about the number of people you network with, but more about how you network with them and maintain the relationship. For example, you could have thousands of connections on LinkedIn, but if you don’t engage with them, then they won’t recognise your name or brand.
It’s easier to make a lasting impression when networking in person, whether it be attending regular networking groups and networking events or meeting your online connections for a coffee to discuss business.
Boost Your Skills
First of all, networking can help you improve your communication skills as well as your confidence, both of which are vital skills in the business world.
When you own a business, you need communication skills and confidence to secure business deals, talk to clients, and engage with employees – and networking can be great practice for this.
However, these aren’t the only skills that networking can help you improve. Networking can introduce you to people with a variety of skill sets, and you can learn from these people.
You can also network with people in your own industry, to help you boost the skills you need and improve your understanding of the industry. Networking with the right people can be a great way to broaden your horizon, strengthen your skills, and improve on your weaknesses.
However, you should always return the help when you can. If somebody helps you in an area that you’re weak in, then you can help them in an area that you’re strong in – networking works both ways.
If you’re struggling to decide which direction you want to move your business in or you simply want some inspiration, then networking is a step in the right direction.
Building a network that you can bounce ideas off of is a great way to motivate yourself and feel more confident in your decisions.
Online platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook Groups are great at getting quick ideas from people – simply share a post and watch the responses come flooding in. If you’re willing to help others, then they will be more likely to reciprocate and help you with ideas when you ask for them.
As your business grows, you’ll need to hire the right employees – employees that you can trust. However, it can be difficult to find the right person/ people for the job, especially when there are countless applications to get through.
One of the best ways that you can find the right employees for the role is through word of mouth. Your network can also negate the need for job role advertisement costs – if people in your network share your job posting, then you’re sure to get recommendations and plenty of applications.
LinkedIn is particularly useful when searching for employees, and more and more people are using the popular networking platform to find the perfect role and find the perfect employee.
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Mark is a multi-award winner in business networking and relationship building. He is passionate about coaching and mentoring business owners and professionals through 1-1 & group coaching, team performance workshops and group mastermind sessions.