It has been said that no man is an island. This is particularly true when it comes to business. You only have to watch comedies that revolve around businesses where the manager hates just about everyone – such as Fawlty Towers or Black Books – to recognise the importance of good relationships in business (while of course having a good laugh!)
Networking is one tool that can enable you as a business owner to connect with others within and outside of your industry, and to establish and build relationships and alliances for the purposes of assisting you in meeting organisational goals.
What exactly is networking?
Networking involves connecting with others in your business sphere, such as colleagues, associates, suppliers, customers, and professional association members and leaders, in order to share information and support and build mutually-beneficial professional relationships.
What networking is not is an opportunity for direction promotion of your business or product. The focus in networking – while ultimately being about business growth – needs to be on making connections with other people.
Benefits and methods of networking
Networking provides a number of opportunities to:
Tips for effective networking
Prior to live networking events, it’s important to establish exactly what you want to achieve by attending, and it’s also a good idea to research the key speakers and attendees.
If you wish to make yourself known at the event, you will need to be upfront while simultaneously avoiding being too pushy.
This might involve introducing yourself to others, handing out business cards, taking a genuine interest in others, and involving yourself in discussions.
If you are using LinkedIn or another social platform for online networking purposes, you will need to start by setting up a company page. You will also need to add quality useful content such as articles, news items, and videos, and respond to comments and get involved in discussions.
After any networking event, it’s important of course to follow up on new connections and particularly on any promises you made. For example, if you offered to forward on information or contacts to someone you met, don’t forget about it as soon as the event is over!
Neither type of networking (online / offline) is superior to the other as both have their benefits, and one may actually lead to the other. For instance you might meet someone at an event and then make contact online, or you might connect with a person on LinkedIn and then make time to meet in person. Either way, networking should not be overlooked as it can be a very valuable tool for business growth and expansion.
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