Why networking is good for your business

Six years ago when I published my first magazine I was occasionally invited to a networking meeting, how times change – today I could fill up my diary every day for the next month with a networking event.

So clearly lots of people think networking is a good thing but I know from many of the people I speak to, especially those who have never tried business networking before, it can often be difficult to understand exactly what the benefits of networking are.

I have discussed this with many people over the past few years and there are three main reasons why people network:

Firstly – to get business.

Now that may sound direct but we all want to run successful businesses and just because you have a clear aim of wanting to develop your business does not mean you have to be pushy or aggressive.

Of course you are not going to walk into your first networking meeting and walk out with a new customer (though sometimes it does happen) but if you find a group that is right for your business and you attend regularly then networking will work.

By the way you will notice two caveats there – “finding a group that is right for your business” – something I will cover in a later blog and “attend regularly”.

I cannot emphasise enough how important these points are. A scatter gun approach does not work with networking – you need to find a good group and attend frequently so that people get to know you and remember what you do.

The other important thing to remember is that you are not just telling people at the meeting about your business – it is all the people they know as well, so that if they are asked “do you know anyone who does …?” they will immediately think of you.

Secondly – to find suppliers

Everything we have said about developing your business works in reverse here. So when you need to find e.g a printer for your business cards, you may already know someone who can help you from your networking group. It is really great to be able to use someone you already know – not just on a personal level, but also because you will know enough about their business to be reassured that they will give you the professional service you need.

Thirdly – the chance to have a good chat…

…with other people who understand exactly what it is like to be running your own business, especially for those awful moments when you just need some sympathy and understanding because your PC has broken again. Equally for those uplifting moments, when you get caught up in a conversation with someone about ideas for each other’s businesses and you come away buzzing with inspiration.

Personally I would also cite a fourth reason, which is that networking meetings are a great place to undertake market research for your business. If you are doing a one minute introduction about your business – change this around and see what gets the best reaction, then you can use this message in your other marketing activities. You may also be able to identify other opportunities for your business simply by talking to other business people at the meetings and seeing what services they need.

Finally, to add a note of common sense, networking (like using social media e.g. Facebook./Twitter) is something that should be used alongside your other marketing activities. It should never be the only way you market your business but it can be a very productive and fun way to give people another opportunity to find out about you and your business.

Mel

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