It’s easy to take a cynical view on networking, a tradition that can be more than a little overbearing both in its messaging and in practice. But the truth is, networking’s reputation comes from a large kernel of truth, and more than that, it doesn’t have to be cynical – organic, genuinely motivated networking among peers you respect reaps truly business-changing results.
When you look at building networks as building communities, you’ll quickly understand why the practice isn’t just a buzzword — it’s absolutely key to growing your business.
It’s a Marketplace of Ideas
We often think of networking as a method to drum up job leads or bolster career development for employees, but for businesses, building networks is “an avenue to exchange ideas,” as Forbes’ Bianca Miller Cole puts it. No matter its size, your business thrives on innovation, and innovation derives from the collision of inspiration and information.
The simple act of meeting and listening — emphasis on the latter — to new people is a breeding ground for new ideas, new information, and new perspectives that can prove absolutely invaluable to any business. Wikipedia is one thing, but knowing people grants you access to a whole new library of ever-evolving resources. Like Cole says, “You never can tell how much you know without listening to other people.”
It Puts Your Face Forward
So why is networking important? Here’s an easy one: It puts your face — and in turn, your business — front and center in people’s minds. The same concept that applies to job seekers applies to your business. Think about it. When it comes time to call on a new partner, are you more likely to go with the faceless website or automated mass email, or with the human being who left a genuinely good impression on you over Zoom or at the mixer? The more your face is out in the ether, the more likely business opportunities are to come your way. And as a bonus, it can build your self-confidence, too.
You’re Always at the Ready
Following up on the last point, Seacoast Bank puts it simply: “It’s natural that networking will result in opportunities that wouldn’t come along otherwise, whether it’s a referral, a potential partnership, or a request for your product or service. The thing to know is when or how they will materialize.”
It’s one thing to generate opportunities for yourself via social media or advertising. It’s entirely another, though, to willfully put yourself in a place where you are ready to pounce on opportunities before anyone else. Making networking a habit can mean the difference between opportunities existing around you and your actively seizing those opportunities.
It Grows the Community, Naturally
As a business owner, you are part of a community of peers. And while other forms of signal-boosting like the aforementioned traditional and digital advertising share a lot in common with networking — namely, getting your business concept out into the world — they lack the community-facing aspect of networking. They’re also essentially one-and-done. When you tweet, there’s very little chance it’ll go viral, and if you make an ad, another business doesn’t turn around and make another ad for you, right?
When you engage in building networks, though, there’s a good chance that the people you network with will signal boost you even when you’re not around, and you’ll likely do the same for them. Think of each effort you make to grow your network as a tiny deposit that generates massive interest — maybe that’s why the Ottawa Business Journal calls it a long-term investment.
It Offers You a Team of Problem Solvers
As the staffing firm Michael Page points out, networking particularly excels at building long-lasting personal relationships. Building networks essentially fill your professional life with diverse thought, and having constant access to diverse thought paired with strong, trusting personal relationships is a potent recipe for solving unexpected problems as they arise. Plus, you might just make some long-lasting friends along the way.
You are who you surround yourself with, and SetSchedule 3.0 helps make keeping up with your network easy with features like the Connections contact database, the Referral Radar, and the Research Center, keeping all of your prospects in one place (or even better, in one app).
As a freelance writer, small business owner, and consultant with more than a decade of experience, Dan Ketchum has been fortunate enough to collaborate with leading brands including Chron.com, Zacks, MSN Money, Discover, Office Depot, Fortune, The Motley Fool, and more.