The Power of Networking
Why you should be networking for your business, and three ways you can start getting your foot in the door.
By Jessica Alex
There are many reasons why people choose to network. It can centre around a job search or be based on trying to build a business. Regardless of the reason, at its core, networking should be about building relationships. Some of the most successful people in this world have a strong network of people. Author, internationally known public speaker and marketing expert Porter Gale once wrote, "Your network is your net worth."
Building the right network and creating mutually beneficial relationships take time and effort, but they could be the keys to your personal and business growth. Before you start networking, it’s important to recognize that if you are going to build genuine relationships, it’s "not all about you." Yes, it’s okay to ask, but if you can also be the one to offer up insight, send referrals or even just listen (or any combination of the three), these actions will help in creating a relationship worth keeping. (The same applies to your clients: showing you care can go a long way.)
Here are three ways I have been able to build business relationships, as well as attract clients, through networking.
Social media networking
It’s no secret that social media is one of the biggest tools to market your business. However, social media should not be overlooked for networking purposes, either. Yes, of course, you want to sell your product or service, but making genuine relationships with people is just as important as trying to go for the sale. How so, you may ask? Well, if you want to build a tribe, you’ve got to connect on a personal level. Reaching out to people and starting a genuine conversation is something that could have long-lasting effects. For starters, you are building trust. Whether that person you have connected with online buys directly from you, refers other customers to you or is just someone with whom you have built a friendship, how can you go wrong? I have had all three scenarios happen to me over the years through networking on social media. Remember: trust builds relationships, and when people trust you, they are more likely to buy from you.
Some people dread networking events — especially if it’s not done right. Have you ever gone to a networking event and been approached by someone who is just going around handing out business cards to everyone in sight? How often did you then say to yourself, "Wow! That person is someone I must work with."? Probably never. Then there are those who are afraid to approach strangers at the event. I get it; it can be nerve-wracking. But chances are, if someone is attending a networking event, they are expecting to strike up a conversation. So smile, make eye contact and approach! At almost every networking event that I have attended, I made a valuable contact. I have also gotten business from networking events, because sometimes when you get in front of people, and they’re able to see you in person and see how passionate you are about your product or service, they are more eager to work with you (or refer someone to you).
And believe it or not, if you are shy, consistent networking may help to boost your confidence! In my experience with networking, I have struck up conversations and realized there are people who are interested in what you do and who you are. If you don’t believe me, listen to author and research professor Dr. Brené Brown, who writes: "Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen."
And speaking of showing up, attending networking events can also help to raise your profile. The more people see you and hear you share insights and knowledge about your industry, the more you can become known as an expert in your field, potentially becoming top of mind for them when they need something related to your field.
Here’s an article on tips to help you network in person by HubSpot:
Or you can watch this YouTube video:
There are plenty of meet-up groups in a city near you, for all different types of interests. I categorized this as slightly different than a "networking event," because you don’t necessarily have to attend a meet-up event to drum up business. To me, meet-ups are a great way to connect and generate conversations with people who share the same interests — and potentially create long-lasting relationships with them. Generally, I find that the same group of people will attend meet-ups on a weekly or monthly basis, which helps with the relationship-building aspect. I recently created my own meet-up called Boss Ladies Who Brunch: Sip & Share, and although it was a small group of female entrepreneurs, by listening to one another’s stories, a lot of deals (and relationships) were made organically that day.
There are several ways you can network, and I recommend trying a mix of the three I’ve covered. Regardless of what business you are in, you are in the people business. If you don’t have people, you don’t have customers, and if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. So, although networking can be a time-consuming task, in the long run, it is well worth your effort.
NOTE: This blog post is the first in the "The Power Of" series that I will be publishing. The next will be "The Power of Storytelling."