Business Networking Definition
A business network’s primary purpose is to connect you with partners that expand your reach and help you identify opportunities that you otherwise would have missed. If you network to find customers you will likely be very disappointed in the time and effort versus the return on the time invested.
The Benefits of Business Networking
When networking your goal should be to meet new people and earn referrals by building trusted relationships. Referrals are the end game and the tangible result of your efforts, but there are bigger factors at work here. When you invest in relationships you are able to earn the longterm value of the relationship that extends into the challenging times as well. It’s better to build a community of alliance partners than to be transactional in your approach.
Visibility is key to your success. It’s not like you can simply show up once and never again. If you do, no one will remember you or care about your success. You will become a faceless brand that no one cares about at all. Being visible means being engaged in the local community. This affords you the opportunity to meet potential clients, earn referrals, create partnerships, joint ventures, or find new opportunities for service or product line expansion.
Staying current means you are timely with information about your industry and market conditions. You are the guide to successfully engaging services that those in your network do not know how to navigate. Attending seminars, networking within circles and with mentorship groups on a regular basis will help you stay current.
The purpose of business networking is to increase business revenue - one way or another. The thickening of the bottom line can be immediately apparent, as in developing a relationship with a new client, or develop over time, as in learning a new business skill.
Make the Most of Your Business Networking
Meeting people in person seems old fashioned in the digital age, but wherever possible you should network face-to-face. Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Talloo and Twitter are excellent ways to communicate with customers and business associates, but they do not substitute for meeting people in person. A lot of local business is still done on a handshake basis, and the best way to network with other local business owners and entrepreneurs is through business groups.
The best business networking groups operate as exchanges of business information, ideas, and support. The most important skill for effective business networking is listening; focusing on how you can help the person you are listening to rather than on how he or she can help you is the first step to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.
Don't spread yourself too thin. Business networking is about cultivating relationships - you're not going to be able to do that if you're trying to be an active participant with five or six different groups. And you need to be an active participant in whatever networking group you join. It's contributing that will bring you the benefits of networking you're looking for, such as more business. You need to not only attend the meetings of your networking group regularly, but go prepared to offer something of value to the group.
Choose the networking group that's best for you. A strong contact referral group such as Talloo, whose purpose is for members to make introductions to decision makers operates very differently than a community service club such as Rotary International whose primary purpose is to serve the community.