Networking is a vital skill for any small business owner. It can help you build relationships, gain new customers, and even find your next venture.
But it isn’t always easy to get started, especially when you’re not sure what type of marketing networking suits your business or where to start looking for potential networking connections.
With this guide on hand, we’ll show you how to develop the right networking skills so that your business can benefit from them too!
What Kind of Networking Suits Your Business?
Networking is one of the most important things that you can do to grow your business and brand. Understanding the concept of matching networking to your business goals by being open to talking with people and making connections can propel your new venture. You don’t have to be an extrovert, but it helps if you’re comfortable speaking up in front of large groups or at least know how to make small talk.
The reason networking is so vital for entrepreneurs and small business owners is that it will help you reach more clients and connections than would otherwise not be possible on your own. Whether you’re looking for investors who will finance your new venture, collaborators for a creative project, or just want to meet fellow professionals in the same boat as you, networking events are filled with people looking for the exact same things! This means that when someone asks what brings them together, we all have an answer: “networking.” Networking can arise in many different incidents ranging from formal and professional events to social outings with like-minded individuals, tapping into regional networks or by industry sector.
The first step to figuring out the right kind of networking for your business is knowing what kind of networking is best for your industry, location, and personality. There are many kinds of networking:
- Business-to-business (B2B) networking
- Business-to-consumer (B2C) networking
- Social media networking
- Professional association membership organisations
Where Does Networking Fit in Your Sales & Marketing Plan?
Networking is not only essential at the beginning of your business, but it is also important throughout the life of your small business. The purpose of networking is to help you build relationships with other people in your industry and create opportunities that can benefit both parties. Networking can complement other sales channels like social media, direct sales or cold calling. For example, if you are active on Twitter and Facebook, networking could help you find leads that could be interested in what you have to offer or get feedback from potential customers who may not know about your product yet.
So, what should you focus on when you go to a networking event? Think of these characteristics the next time you’re at a business event:
- Good listener
- Positive attitude
- Follow up with opportunities
Top 10 Social Skills You Need For Networking
You don’t have to be an extrovert or outgoing person to do effective networking; however, if this type of activity makes you uncomfortable then take some time to practise your personal skills. Practice makes perfect, starting with small talk at local events before attending a larger professional networking event is a good idea. You also need to be able to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life and not let your emotions get in the way.
Are you starting a new business and unsure which skills you need for good networking? Here are our key skills from an entrepreneurial perspective for networking:
- Listening skills
- Be friendly
- Person skills
- Eye contact
- Be patient
- A great first impression
- Passion for your business
- A firm handshake
- A good listener
You may be wondering what good networking looks like for a small business owner. Here are a few examples:
- You’re at a conference and find out that the person sitting next to you has been in your industry for decades and is an expert on a topic that’s relevant to your company. You ask if they’d be willing to meet up sometime so that they can give some advice on how best to tackle the problem at hand.
- After meeting someone who works at another company in an industry totally unrelated but similar, you get to talk about your businesses and discover there are things they do better than yours do. This could make all the difference in growing sales. You make plans to have coffee soon afterwards so that they can share what they know with you.
- During a speed networking activity, you introduce yourself and share the details of your company. Afterwards, someone you briefly met during the activity approaches you asking for more details about your services because their company is looking for a provider with the services you offer.
Why an ‘Elevator Pitch’ Makes Networking Easy
You are a small business owner. You want to build a network of professionals and make new connections with people who can help you grow your business. It’s time to perfect your ‘elevator pitch.’
The first step is learning how to give an elevator pitch for yourself—that is, explaining what your company does in 30 seconds or less. A strong elevator pitch should quickly explain what sets your company apart from others in its field; why someone should do business with you; what makes your customer service special; or any other aspect of your operation that stands out.
Once you’ve honed your elevator pitch and are ready to start networking, keep in mind that it’s not just about what you say—it’s also about how you say it. Remember that your elevator pitch is a short, concise description of your business that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator. While it may sound simple and straightforward, there are some important considerations for crafting a solid elevator pitch:
Keep it short and memorable
When crafting your perfect pitch, remember that brevity is key; you want to give enough information so that people understand what you do without boring them or confusing them. At its core, a good elevator pitch should be memorable enough, so they’ll ask for more when they see you again later down the line.
What Results Can You Expect From Professional Networking?
The results of professional networking are wide-ranging and include:
- Getting new business. As a small business owner, it’s critical to expand your client base. Networking is a great way to do that because it exposes you to people who may not be aware of your services or products but could benefit from them.
- Seeking highly skilled employees. If you’re looking for new staff, networking ensures that you’re visible in the community and gets your brand out there so potential employees know who you are and what you stand for.
- Getting clients/suppliers/partners/etc., including ones outside of their immediate geographic area (such as remote workers).
- Increase your chances of finding mentors and advice.
- Referral business.
- Learning more about your competitors.
Great Places to Network Your Business
Now it’s time to discover the different types of networking events and whether they suit your business or not.
Here’s our top networking events to look out for when starting your networking journey:
- Industry conferences
- Trade organisation events
- Local business association events
- Happy hour meet-ups
- Virtual groups
- Community service groups
Online Networking Tips
Understandably, more and more people are moving towards online networking. Generally, online networking via social media is a more convenient way to tap into a wider variety of people than in person.
Try out these online networks:
- Facebook groups
- LinkedIn groups
- Zoom tips
- Google+ to network
Common Networking Mistakes
Networking may not come naturally to you, but that’s no cause for concern! With the right help, guidance, and practise you can perfect your ability to talk about your business and goals.
It’s best to avoid these common networking mistakes when attending your first event:
Focusing On Sales
Whether you’re new to networking or a seasoned pro, it can be tempting to dive right into your pitch and make a sale. But you need to remember that networking is about building your brand, not selling products. Instead of talking about your product or service, focus on learning about the other person’s business and what matters most to them. This will help you develop a rapport that will lead naturally into sales conversations at some point down the line—but only if you’ve built up enough trust first!
Talking More Than Listening
You’ll be surprised at how many business owners believe that their mission is simply to tell their story until someone listens! But listening builds relationships faster than anything else in networking because it shows genuine interest in others’ stories and ideas. When it comes time for those valuable one-on-one meetings, you’ll stand out from other business owners because they were impressed by how much they liked talking with you when they met with everyone else at the event who talked non-stop instead of listening first.
Getting The Dress Code Wrong
There’s no denying it: the dress code is important. It’s important to consider the different networking styles, types of events, and people in attendance.
For example, if you’re attending an event where most people are dressed casually—like a happy hour or community event—then it’s safe to assume that most attendees will be wearing something like what they wear during the day. On the other hand, if the environment is more formal—like an awards ceremony at which everyone has dressed up in their best suits and gowns—then make sure you’re dressed appropriately. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
When you’re networking, it’s important to be prepared. You need to know the goals of your networking event and plan accordingly. Do you want to meet new potential customers? Get referrals? Build connections with people who can help your business grow in a positive way? Having a clear direction and purpose for being there will give you more clarity on how you want to approach people, and in turn, will give you more confidence.
Giving Up Too Soon
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is giving up too soon. Networking can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t know where to begin. But it’s important to remember that networking takes time, patience, and persistence. It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s often awkward! However, with practice and perseverance, you will find your niche in this community and learn how to approach others with confidence.
The most important thing is not giving up before you’ve even started; if you give up too soon, then all that effort was wasted on nothing! Don’t let yourself get discouraged by rejection or failure: there will always be other people out there who want what you have to offer. If one person turns down your offer of friendship or business partnership, keep going until someone accepts!
Improving Your Networking Skills
Networking is a key skill for small business owners who want to grow their business and take it to the next level, so you must develop strong networking skills. Especially when you’re trying to start or grow a small business on your own with limited resources and experience.
Networking advice and support resources:
- My New Venture
- Professionals UK
- Social media forums and network groups
- Local authorities
- British Chambers of Commerce
- Federation of Small Businesses
If you want to grow your business, then you need to start networking. It’s the perfect way to connect with new customers and make valuable connections that can help your business grow. With so many different types of networking available, find out which is right for you on My New Venture.