Establishing great relationships with other like-minded business people can provide a lifeline of support and business generation for a start-up or small business at any stage.   Networking is a great way to share your successes and mistakes with others and will play an important part in growing a sustainable business.  Inevitably, the main purpose of business networking is to tell others about your business and hopefully turn them into customers.  However, it’s not just about striking deals.  It’s important to understand the difference between prospecting and networking.  Treating everyone in the room like a prospect will inhibit you from forging great, long term relationships and you could miss the opportunity to grow a powerful and trusted network of contacts.  We will cover the right approach to take later, first, let us consider the benefits that good networking will bring to your business.

The Top Five Benefits of Business Networking

Friendship, confidence and morale

The pressures of building a business can often feel like a lonely venture.  If you are a business owner, you may often be working solo, especially early in the process, so it is important to regularly spend time with other optimistic and like-minded associates.  Inevitably, your shared camaraderie will enable you to form strong, long lasting friendships.  Regularly associating with others in the same boat as yourself can be a great morale boost, particularly during difficult phases of business.  Talking to different people will increase your confidence and the confidence you have in your business which will help bring a new flavour to your thoughts, actions and plans for your company too.

New contacts and referrals

The most obvious benefit to business networking is the opportunity to meet potential customers and generate referrals from others in your group.  It is a great way to generate new opportunities for joint ventures, partnerships or new areas of expansion.  However, it’s a two- way process – it is great to come away with what you wanted from the session but make sure you always try to offer something of value to the group too.  

Share knowledge and solve problems

The best way to grow your knowledge is by standing on the shoulders of giants.  Taking advantage of the experience and advice of others before you invest time and money into a venture could prove invaluable.  Networking is also an efficient way to help you find solutions to your business problems, needs and challenges.

Raise your profile and promote your business

Meeting and communicating with potential clients and business partners regularly to maintain your business relationships will keep you and your business visible and at the forefront of the right people’s minds.

Staying current

Keeping pace with trends in your industry and changes within your target market is vital to keeping you and your business in harmony with the ever-changing business climate.  Networking with your business associates will keep you current and abreast of breaking news.

Finding the right approach to networking

If you are finding it hard to work the circuit and you’re not yielding much in the way of opportunities for your business, maybe you need to adjust your approach?  Business networking is not just about gathering leads to convert to sales.  Instead of using it as an opportunity to obtain some quick wins, take the ‘slow burn’ approach.  Focus on finding like-minded people with whom to collaborate and use the time to build trusted relationships rather than trying to close deals.  Your network might not become your clients right away, but someone who trusts you is more likely to buy from you further down the line or they may refer you to other people they know.  Commit to attending networking events on a regular basis and reap the long-term benefits.

After the event

Follow up everyone who you spoke to, not just those interested in buying.  Don’t just go for the sale, try and bring value to the relationship as well and let relationships develop at their own pace.   Listen to others business owners and help find solutions to their challenges.  Your offering might be the answer but if it isn’t, help them find a solution that best meets their need.

Top networking tip

Always be prepared, even if it is an informal networking event.  Winging it just wastes time and money. Think about what you would like to get out of the event, and spend time rehearsing what you want to say so you can ask the right questions.   Networking can work for anyone – you just must be prepared for it to take time.

Follow this handy networking checklist before attending your next networking event.

Now you know how important networking is and the benefits it can bring you and your business, what are you waiting for? Check out all the social and business events around you and make time to join those events to network and grow your brand, business and support network.  We are part of a thriving local network of business in Kent and Surrey and are big advocates of local business networking so please feel free to chat to us, anytime.

To get in touch, please call 020 8468 1087, email or fill in our contact form.