The Value of Business Networking
A successful business networking strategy needs to recognize why we do it. What’s our objective? Without this understanding there’s really no purpose to the effort other than social mingling. Business networking allows us to increase our awareness amongst others. Think of the old adage, “People need to know, like, and trust you before they’ll do business with, or refer you.” It provides the opportunity to advance the know, like, and trust level for all those you connect with. It helps you build strong relationships that oftentimes lead to partnerships, leads, referrals, as well as prospects and clients. As you interact with your business network sharing ideas and helping them solve problems, you’ll become more influential within your industry, and through reciprocity, you’ll find ways to increase your efficiency, productivity, and overall business success.
How to Identify Your Network Contacts
There are a multitude of people that can be key players in your business network. Understanding how to identify and connect with those key players will make your business networking efforts more effective. So, try to identify 1 – 3 individuals in each of these groups where you could find mutual benefit in having them in your business network.
- Ideal Clients
- Existing Customers
- Vendors / Suppliers
- Active Prospects
- Industry Influencers
- Strategic Partners
- Other Local Business Leaders
- Community and Government Leaders
- Press & Media
This group would be considered a primary networking group. They’re the ones that you rely on the most for referrals and business insights. But, as represented above, there are many more benefits to networking beyond this key networking group.
Managing Your Broader Business Network
To reach the broader group of networking contacts you should consider three basic sources, 1.) Online Networking, 2.) Face-to-Face Networking, and 3.) General Networking.
Online networking is connecting with others through online platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Professional Organizations, and numerous others.
Face-to-Face networking is the participation in events where a multitude of people with a common interest attend. These could be Chamber, Business Group, Industry, or Seminar type events. These are the ones that have essentially gone away with the pandemic environment.
General networking is about connecting with existing friends, family, and business contacts. With the virtual elimination of Face-to-Face networking a much heavier reliance falls upon Online and General networking. And, if you don’t think there’s much value in this Online networking approach here’s what a 2012 (8 years ago) survey found. Twenty-one percent (21%) of small business owners surveyed felt that Online networking was more important than In-person, and 53% felt that Online and In-person networking were of equal value. Can you imaging what those numbers would look like today? Was at least half of your networking done Online prior to the pandemic? How about now?
Tips for Effective Online Networking
So if you haven’t started, or need to step up your Online networking here are some tips for success.
- Start Now –Start using the social networking platforms. If you need help navigating them reach out to others. It’s amazing what they can help you with.
- Be Intentional – Understand the objective(s) of your networking efforts. Define your ideal connections and try to establish those connections first. Build your connections through an outreach strategy. This will accelerate your networking efforts and ensure that you’re refining and connecting with the right people.
- Leverage Your Existing Connections – If you’re already participating in Online networking platforms go through your existing contacts and refresh those that have gone stale. This is a virtual goldmine, and your connections will likely appreciate you initiating the re-connect.
- Find Shared Points of Reference – When you reach out to connect with someone make sure you have some type of shared point of reference. Starting the connection with this will increase their acceptance of the connection request and provide a topic with which to start a conversation.
- Ask for a Meeting – Remember, networking is about getting others to know, like, and trust you on a business level. Therefore, ask for a meeting to get to know each other and your respective businesses better. Ideally this would be an Online video meeting.
- Keep the Conversation Going – It is of little use to make connections and then ignore them. Use a CRM system and flag your new connections for follow up conversations. The more valuable the connection, the more frequent the communication.
Finally, no matter what type of networking you utilize remember these rules for success.
- Be Yourself
- Ask Questions
- Listen Actively
- Be a Giver, and
- Follow Up
So, the world is different today. What else is new? It’s time to get busy and get networking!
If your company is looking for performance improvement and growth request a free Strategic Business Assessment at https://strategicorientation.com/contact/. For more key tips on business success check out my other blogs at https://www.StrategicOrientation.com/Blog and connect with me on Linked In.