Why Business Networking Is Vital For Professional Life | SetSchedule
Knowing what business networking is and how it’s beneficial to your business is a vital step in succeeding, no matter what industry you’re involved in. The term “business networking” has become ubiquitous, so overused that it’s almost a cliché.
There are business networking groups, seminars and other types of meetings, and in many cases, some of the participants don’t know how (and why) business networking is important. If the mantra in real estate is “location, location, location,” then in business networking it’s “relationships, relationships, relationships.”
What Is Business Networking?
Business networking is exactly as it sounds; it’s the process of developing and nurturing relationships with the goal of increasing your business presence, gaining knowledge and new ideas and expanding your sphere of influence within your industry. In short, it’s about forming and maintaining professional relationships. And like virtually every other type of relationship, business networking (a.k.a. business relationships) are a two-way street; the most successful ones give as much (or more) as they take.
Understand that in many instances, business networking yields the best results of any growth strategy in small businesses. Therefore, it should be a major component of your business plan. Business networking is not about attending a once-a-month after-hours meeting with other local businesses in a church basement serving bland coffee and stale donuts, pressing the flesh and exchanging business cards; it should be treated like any other marketing campaign, proactive and time-consuming.
How Does Business Networking Work?
Business networking is all about the connections you make. But these connections are not strictly customer-based; they are relationships with other business owners, industry groups, civic and local organizations and other connections that are likely to be beneficial to your business.
As mentioned earlier, it’s vital to understand that business networking is not all about you and “what can you do for me?” It’s about creating trusting relationships with others, whether they’re direct customers or not. A major component of business networking involves helping others within (and also outside) your network. By being a steward of good karma, you’ll find that your sincere help with others will bring good things your way. The key takeaway is that business networking is about sharing, not taking.
What Benefits Does Business Networking Give You?
Naturally, the benefits of business networking are numerous. Among others, they include the following:
Growth of business connections: In addition to sharing, business networking is about forming trust. Having a network of business professionals who know, like, and are able to trust each other is the end result of successful networking.
Exposure to new trends and ideas: Your business (as well as the entire world) is changing, whether you like it or not. A network is a great source of new perspectives, ideas and information about not only your industry, but the entire business world as a whole.
Boosts your standing within your industry: By being visible, you’ll be noticed as an important resource in your field and will be considered an expert and the “go-to person” in your profession. Having a strong reputation as a leader will help you attract other leaders, who are not only in your industry, but in related industries as well.
Receive support when you need it: Having a large network of other successful professionals is important for many reasons. If you need expert help or have to get through to the “right person,” for any issue you may have, chances are someone in your network will have the solution or be able to recommend the right person or solution.
Develop important, long-lasting relationships: Another one of the perks of professional networking is the relationships you gain along the way. Not only are these people trusted professional contacts, but many become more than that, often evolving into strong personal friends.
How to Successfully Network
As mentioned earlier, being able to network takes far more work than simply just showing up. Of course, showing up is important, but it’s only one of the key steps to building a successful business network. Others vital steps include the following:
Learn to give more than you expect to receive: One way to look at networking is that it’s more like farming than hunting. It’s about growing and cultivating and nurturing relationships rather than simply grabbing what you need at the time.
Dig your well before you’re thirsty: Nothing succeeds like success, so in the early stages, get your network into place. Nothing reeks of desperation more than somebody who starts reaching out when he/she is in trouble. Seasoned professionals can smell desperation a mile away, so take the time to build your network before you need assistance from anybody.
Gain the reputation as an expert: Becoming an expert in your field will naturally attract others to you and by default will help your business. Knowing that you’re the “go-to” person in your area of expertise will do nothing but help things get better for you. Sharing your wisdom and knowledge with others who seek it out will endear you to others professionally — and since things come around — will only help to grow and strengthen your network.
Treat everybody the same way: An obvious concept, but not always pulled off well. Knowing that many of the most powerful industry leaders started off in the mailroom (David Geffen, for one), it’s important to treat everybody you meet as if they’re the most important person in the room. And those young guys in hoodies and shorts? Today, they might be inventing tomorrow’s next big thing.
Follow through with your connections: Your connections are just that: connections. Staying connected with them is another important aspect of business networking. Keeping yourself top of mind is easy — simply reach out to them once in a while. Send them an article that might be relevant to them or send them a personal note if you’ve read something about them in the news. Any gesture you make to your connections will do nothing but strengthen your network.
Where to Network
Every meeting you have should be a business networking opportunity; however, there are places to go and things to do that will help you grow your professional network. A few popular ones are listed below:
Business seminars: These include conferences, trade shows and other business seminars. At these events, there are plenty of other like-minded, relevant professionals that are also looking to network.
Networking groups: There are plenty of networking groups out there — both local, in-person groups and online forums as well. They typically meet at regular intervals — weekly, bi-weekly or monthly at a set time.
Professional associations: Virtually every industry has a networking group that is relevant. For example, the American Marketing Association is a well-known and highly regarded professional organization for marketers.
Local groups: These include the chamber of commerce, boards of organizations such as libraries, museums and nonprofits, as well as other community groups. The advantage of local groups is that you have more opportunities to conduct face-to-face meetings with the other members, something that isn’t as easily possible with online groups.
Naturally, the benefits of business networking are self-evident. Surrounding yourself with a group of like-minded professionals and providing assistance to other business owners allows you to build an entire network to learn within and to glean new ideas and innovation applicable to your industry. Plus, the entire social aspect of networking makes it a necessary part of being in business. Knowing how to do it successfully will certainly pay dividends in multiple aspects of your business — and in your life.