If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably heard that you should network. But, what exactly does that mean? Nowadays, networking is so much more than simply exchanging business cards. Keep reading to learn what networking means today and how you can use networking to grow your business!
What is networking?
Networking is all about relationships. Specifically, it’s about developing relationships that ease the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur. From finding the right collaborators, to marketing your business, to securing funding, there is no limit to the benefits of networking effectively. Here at B2BeeMatch, we take networking seriously because we know that if you make the right connections, you can grow your business to its highest potential.
Keep reading to get advice on how to network to grow your business and make sure your efforts really pay off!
Make sure you have clear networking goals
Before you do anything else, it’s important to know exactly what you want to accomplish and what you’re looking for. There are many facets to expanding a business, and networking can be a solution to almost any business challenge. So, before showing up to a local event for entrepreneurs or reaching out to other business leaders online, be sure to prioritize your networking goals. We recommend doing a deep analysis of your business to identify the type of connections that will be most beneficial to you and your business. Ask yourself: What would most support my business's growth at this time?
Perhaps your business is already experiencing rapid growth. Congratulations! Scaling a business is a complex task. If you need assistance in meeting the demands of a quickly growing business, you may consider outsourcing support from competing businesses who can help you to meet your current demands. Remember: Leveraging your business network is an efficient way to support the growth of your business.
If you’re looking for long term solutions for scaling your business, it may be time to hire some employees. While there are many places to find skilled people to support your business, taking a networking approach can help you connect with people who have been vetted by your business network and give you greater confidence in taking this sizable step as a business owner.
Growing your customer base
If you have the resources to share your offering with a large market, but haven't made many sales yet, your priority may be growing your customer base. Networking events and networking platforms such as B2BeeMatch can play an important role in increasing the visibility of your brand and marketing your business to potential customers who haven't heard of you yet.
Staying on the cutting edge
If you’re a more seasoned entrepreneur, you may find that the biggest challenge that networking can help you with is staying up to date with industry news, trends and innovations. Staying relevant requires constant effort—especially if you’re in the tech industry! And, with the lightning-fast pace of today’s business world, regularly attending in-person networking events and keeping up with contemporary networking practices such as maintaining your company’s online business networking profile can help you stay ahead of your competitors.
At any point in a business's lifespan, investors can help expand your business in new ways. If finding funding is your main goal, having a wide network of connections and being respected within your field can help you to attract the connections who can provide you with the capital you need to reach new heights!
A strong business network can offer solutions to many problems entrepreneurs face
Each of the preceding networking goals can help you to grow your business, but going after all of them at once may not be feasible. We recommend keeping your top two or three networking priorities in mind while coming up with a plan to help you meet the right connections and solve your most pressing challenges.
Use a variety of networking strategies
Once you’ve identified your networking goals, it's time to figure out the networking strategies that are most likely to help you meet those goals. Remember, there are many factors to consider!
Near or far?
Do you want to make local connections to help find nearby collaborators or hire nearby staff? Or, perhaps you’re more keen to travel so that you can grow your customer base in a new market or meet investors in a larger city? Consider your networking goals, think about the geographic area you want to focus on, and then plan from there. Joining a trade mission or connecting with a trade association or heading off to an international trade show in another country will open up a completely different world to you than you might find by joining local business associations and local chambers of commerce in your home city. All of these options can bring value to you and your business—just make sure your choices align with your networking goals.
Online or in person?
While there is a certain magic to face-to-face connections that foster organic conversations, no matter your industry or geographic location you will be missing out if you don't also add an online element to your networking plan. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started!
LinkedIn is a well-known resource that is perfect if you want to focus on your own professional development or if you’re a business owner who is focused on hiring just a few staff.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest are valuable resources that can help you familiarize yourself with businesses and business leaders in your industry. They are also great for staying in touch with contacts you've made while networking in person or elsewhere online.
B2BeeMatch is our growing international business networking platform that helps businesses connect with each other based on the B2B services they offer and the ones they’re looking for. Whether you need an accounting firm, a marketing agency, an HR company or something else, our platform can help you find exactly what you need in just a few clicks!
Even within the online space, it is important to capitalize on the strengths of different platforms by not limiting yourself to just one. From our perspective, the best networking strategy will incorporate several online and in-person networking opportunities. Each of them offers something that the other cannot, and you can make valuable connections both in person and online, so always be doing a bit of both!
Be proactive and consistent
In order to network in a way that will help you grow your business, you must go beyond identifying your goals and being strategic with your networking efforts, you must also be proactive and consistent!
You can attend every networking event and exchange contact information with every entrepreneur in your industry, but if you aren’t also following up and being consistent in your communications, all of your networking efforts could actually backfire! Always act with integrity to avoid making a bad impression on the people who could've otherwise helped you achieve greater success. Remember: Someone who keeps their word is much more likely to get referrals and repeat business. So, make the most out of your networking efforts by only making promises you can keep and only reaching out to businesses and business leaders you intend to follow up with.
Whether you’re just starting out as a new entrepreneur or you’re already an established business leader, relationships matter! So, always honor your commitments and watch your professional relationships flourish and your business expand and grow!
Never underestimate the importance of a strong business network to grow your business
If you figure out your networking goals and decide on your networking strategies, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong network. And, building a strong network will not only help you grow your business, it will also help you stay resilient in the face of any challenge because you'll have the resources and connections to solve problems that inevitably arise. You never know what your next big challenge may be, so always keep an open mind and treat everyone you meet with respect. If you do this, and if you develop a reputation for integrity, the possibilities for growth are endless. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there (and get online!) and build a network that will help you achieve your business dreams!