In business, the term ‘networking’ is thrown about no matter your size or the industry you’re in. Dissecting the true power of networking, and what can be done, is something that’s consistently overlooked by companies and individuals. Networking has emerged as a potent tool for all businesses, particularly for SMEs and budding entrepreneurs looking to expand their horizons.
Whether you are just starting out or have an established business, harnessing the power of networking can open up a world of opportunities, partnerships, and growth prospects. It can help to build relationships and access opportunities which aren’t always visible online or from an outside perspective. In fact, a recent survey found that 35% of professionals secured their current or recent job through networking.
We explore the significance of networking for SMEs and provide valuable insights into effective networking strategies, building professional relationships, attending industry events, and leveraging online networking platforms.
Why Networking Matters
Networking isn’t just about collecting business cards or attending social gatherings. It’s a strategic investment in your business’s future. As well as this, if you’re an individual already working for a business, it’s a sure-fire way to gain knowledge and insights from industry experts and professionals. Here’s why networking is crucial:
Access to Opportunities
Networking can introduce you to potential clients, customers, partners, and investors, helping your business grow. 61% of marketers believed that networking events were the most effective marketing channel for achieving their business goals.
Interacting with peers and industry experts can provide valuable insights, ideas, and best practices to improve your business operations. Hearing from peers within your sector, or even across different industries, can help provide invaluable insights that can strengthen your business or prospects.
Establishing relationships with influential individuals and organisations can boost your business’s reputation and credibility in the market. This generates increased exposure to your brand, potentially leading to more revenue as well as more opportunities.
Networking can lead to collaborations and resource-sharing opportunities, reducing costs and expanding your reach. Collaboration is a key cornerstone of thriving as a business, and networking can help foster a collaborative environment unlike anything else.
Strategies To Effectively Network
It’s all well and good providing the overwhelming benefits and rewards from networking. However, how do you actually network successfully? Here are a few pointers to consider and use to strategise your networking efforts:
Define Your Goals
Before you start networking, identify your specific objectives. Are you looking for new clients, partnerships, or even some mentorship? By setting out these clear goals and visions of what you want to achieve, it will help you focus your efforts effectively and with conviction.
Identify Target Contacts
Research and identify key individuals or organisations that align with your goals and values. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to networking. This can be done through platforms such as LinkedIn, or even by just doing some in-depth research.
Craft a concise and compelling elevator pitch that clearly communicates what your business does and what makes it unique. You want to sell your business without giving it the hard-sell. By communicating your story and vision of your business or project, it serves as a great reference for networkers to refer to and base an opinion from. Make it short, engaging, and personal, suitable for a quick elevator chat.
Successful networking isn’t just about talking; it’s also about listening. Show genuine interest in others and their businesses. You may just learn a thing or two.
Don’t let valuable connections slip away. After a conversation, networking event or meeting, follow up promptly to express your interest and continue the conversation. Make sure you have a business card, or relevant details, easily and accessible to hand.
How To Successfully Build Professional Relationships
Networking is all about how you communicate and portray yourself and your business. Here are a few simple steps to help build meaningful and valuable relationships:
Authenticity is key to building lasting relationships. Be yourself and show genuine interest in others. Try to refrain from playing a character or acting how you believe you want people to perceive you. Professional relationships, like all relationships, rely on truth and honesty.
Give Before You Receive
Offer value to your contacts before asking for something in return. This could be in the form of advice, referrals, or assistance. This helps nurture trust and bonding.
Regularly stay in touch with your network to nurture relationships. Share relevant updates and provide support when needed, whilst continually checking in and catching up.
Whenever possible, offer assistance to your contacts. Being helpful can strengthen your professional relationships. Relationships are a two-way street, and respecting this is crucial.
Tips On Attending Industry Events
Nowadays there’s a new conference, exhibition or event for most industries cropping up almost daily. There’s never a better time to gain insight and successfully network. However it’s worth doing some homework beforehand, here are some tips on how to prepare and plan:
Select industry events and conferences that are relevant to your business and goals. Research events in advance to ensure they align with your networking objectives. There’s no point just going to every single event available, as many of these genuinely won’t be relevant to you or your business. Be specific about the events you think would be beneficial to attend.
Before attending an event, research speakers, attendees, and topics of discussion. This will help you identify potential contacts and conversation topics. It will also help to generate potential questions or grey areas that can be discussed in detail.
During events, participate in discussions, ask questions, and seek out opportunities to connect with others. Don’t just stay within your comfort zone. Yes as mentioned it’s important to listen, but involving yourself in the discussion can bring about many positives.
Follow Up Quickly
After an event, reach out to the people you’ve met, connect with them, reference the event, and suggest a follow-up meeting or call to solidify your connection. This is something which is often avoided because you don’t want to come across as awkward or too keen. However, often opportunities are lost by not following up in adequate time.
Leveraging Online Networking Platforms
A large part of networking is undoubtedly within the online space. Online platforms are an incredible way to build relationships and create opportunities. Here’s some things you can do:
This one seems obvious, however often it’s surprising how many people aren’t on LinkedIn, Create a professional LinkedIn profile, join relevant groups, and actively engage by sharing industry insights and connecting with potential partners or clients. It’s a lot easier than you think and is a proven method to successfully network and increase exposure.
Participate in forums, discussion boards, and online communities related to your industry. Contribute valuable insights and build your reputation as an expert. This usually takes a bit of in-depth research to identify specific communities relevant to your business, yet once you’ve discovered your communities and groups it’s a great way to gain knowledge and share information on business insights, or potential events and opportunities coming up.
Explore networking apps like Meetup, Eventbrite, or Bizzabo to discover and attend virtual or local events and connect with like-minded individuals. You’ll see there’s lots of relevant things going on that can help bring professionals together for the greater good.
Networking is a dynamic and essential aspect of business growth and opportunity. For business owners and entrepreneurs, it can be the catalyst that propels your business to new heights. By adopting effective networking strategies, building professional relationships, attending industry events, and leveraging online networking platforms, you can tap into a vast reservoir of possibilities that can fuel your business’s success. Remember, networking is not a one-time effort but an ongoing investment in your business’s future.
We hope this has outlined to you the power of networking for businesses and the opportunities it can bring. If you’d like to know any further information, or anything accounting-related, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us at Nordens, where one of our trusted advisors would be happy to talk you through your query.