Networking isn’t just a way for college grads to land that dream entry-level job— it can be a pivotal strategy in helping your business grow.
Networking is a common strategy for business professionals to both broaden their knowledge about their field, as well as related fields, and expand their circle in the process.
But, the true power of networking is building mutually beneficial relationships that allow you to turn every corner with confidence— not the fleeting joy of handing out business cards.
The power of networking can help your business in a number of ways.
LinkedIn is a highly effective way to network digitally, reaching new prospects and potential business partners with minimal efforts. Regardless of the digital possibilities, it’s important not to underestimate the value of traditional networking approaches. Between 5-20% of new customers come from trade shows, and approximately 40% of prospects transition to new customers after in-person meetings.
What Is Networking, and Why Is It Important?
Networking is a sophisticated term to describe how professionals make connections with new people. They’ll visit trade shows, social events, and designated “networking events” to build new relationships, strengthen existing ones, and grow the “network” of professionals they know.
The goal is to have as many relationships as possible so they’re able to call upon them in the future for advice, resources, and opportunities. Many people recommend that young professionals network frequently to open up career opportunities and attain jobs that would be difficult to break into with just a resume.
Forming relationships is what business is all about. Some choose to network proactively and reach out to like-minded people on LinkedIn or other platforms, while others take a simple approach and form relationships with those at their current jobs. Either way, it’s important to meet new people if you want to climb the corporate ladder.
How Can Networking Benefit Your Business?
Networking creates a web of relationships to draw on. It can yield leads for more work, partnership opportunities, and advice on how to tailor your operations for maximum efficiency.
For example, you could attend a networking event with professionals from your industry and speak with an entrepreneur who owns a similar business. They tell you about how they lowered the cost of their inventory through a supplier you aren’t familiar with and give you their information, opening up an avenue for you to lower your overhead.
You could also meet a software company at the same networking event and discover new CRM software to improve efficiency. All in all, networking opens up new opportunities and provides resources as you grow.
How Do Business Professionals Network?
Networking is as simple as speaking with other entrepreneurs and business professionals, but finding these people isn’t as straightforward. Generally speaking, you need to position yourself in the same social circles as the group you want to network with.
Here are a few ways to stay connected with networking events in your area:
- LinkedIn and other social networks
- Industry events, like trade shows
- Visiting other businesses in person
- Asking those already in your network about upcoming events
It’s all about where you are and who you speak with. If you’re having trouble starting to network, continue reading for top strategies.
Why The Power of Networking Is Invaluable in Today’s Fast-Paced World
There are plenty of reasons why every entrepreneur or business owner should capitalize on the power of networking.
1. You Can Build New Relationships (And Receive Guidance in the Future)
Your best business resource is closer than you think.
You might have opened an accounting firm because you’re an expert accountant and you’ve been learning about it your entire life. But at a certain stage, pushing your business to new horizons might take more than accounting expertise.
That’s where the power of networking can come in handy.
Seeking advice from professionals who have been in your seat before or in related fields is invaluable.
A veteran accounting firm owner with over 20 years of experience can help you to assess and overcome this difficult stage of your business’s life. Alternatively, a growth consultant could have relevant insight into how to hire the next wave of employees to plot your company’s future.
Networking at every available opportunity can ensure that these resources are available to you when you need them most. For this reason, it’s crucial to forge new relationships with the key players in your field.
But it’s important to never undervalue the advice of somebody in a related space— networking with them can yield the same (if not greater) value in the long run.
2. Networking Can Help You Drive New Leads
It’s all about who you know.
Well, it’s not all about who you know. Your network, however, can double as one of your best lead generators (and sales representatives)—often at no additional cost!
If you forge the right connections with the right people, then your network will come to understand the value of your business. Consequently, they’ll be eager to refer your business to any connections in need of your products or services. 90% of business owners attest that distributing business cards has helped them to earn new business.
But it’s not all about cut-and-dry lead generation.
Your network has a more sophisticated understanding of your business than the average person. For this reason, the leads that come from these referrals tend to be higher quality and more impactful than standard leads that might come through marketing or outreach efforts.
As your business grows and scales, a well-oiled referral network can work wonders in generating top-notch leads.
3. Get New Ideas for Building Your Business
You’re in business because you had a great idea. But the best entrepreneurs are constantly looking to double down on this success by reinventing their businesses as time passes.
The power of networking can open up a whole new world of fresh ideas for improving your business.
People with a fresh perspective on the challenges your business is facing can offer highly valuable advice about conquering these obstacles. While they might not be as educated about your industry or business model, a fresh perspective might be all you need to create a plan of action. In fact, they might be able to use a previous experience or challenge they faced in their industry to inform their perspective.
In the end, simply explaining the challenge and opening up a dialogue can help you revisit these challenges independently, too.
4. Gain Visibility For Yourself (And Your Business)
As a business owner, you’re your own business’s best advocate. While you network with new people to build a name for yourself, you can also build awareness for yourself and your brand!
Whether you’re invited to participate in a networking event, or to speak at an industry conference, developing a reputation is paramount.
By speaking at a conference, you can demonstrate your expertise and open up the door to a world of new personal opportunities down the line. The same goes for your business— anecdotes about challenges you’ve overcome can help inspire interest in your company.
The Top 4 Networking Strategies
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to networking effectively. There are, however, a few networking strategies and tactics you can employ to rise above the rest of the pack.
1. Establish a Common Ground With All of Your Connections
Knowing the right people is important, but it’s not enough. To turn somebody you’ve met into a true connection, you must find common ground.
This common ground is essential in helping you to establish a long-term rapport with them. It can both strengthen your relationship and help the connection to remember you among a sea of faces.
There are no precise guidelines when it comes to the nature of this common ground, either.
It could be a challenge that you overcame in your business, which your connection overcame as well, like adapting to new regulations. Or, the common ground could be new technology that altered the way you conduct business, for better or worse.
However, the common ground doesn’t have to rest on your professional life. It could also be a shared hobby or an anecdote about a recent trip.
Having something to bring up the next time you cross paths will put you miles above other connections.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Give
Sure, your main goal in networking is to further yourself and your business. But before you can request anything from your network, it’s important to play your cards right by demonstrating that you’re also willing to give.
This is a key part of playing the networking game correctly.
If a connection requests your input about resolving a challenge, then be willing to offer input. Showing that you’re eager to help these connections along their journey proves your value as a connection.
That being said, it’s not always wise to wait around for connections to come knocking.
You can also establish yourself as a valuable member of the network by simply passing along an interesting article you’ve found related either to their business or a conversation you recently had.
This simple gesture also goes a long way in building a long-term rapport without overstepping your boundaries.
3. Go Digital By Networking on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the most powerful networking tool at your disposal. As of August 2019, there are 575 million registered users, and nearly half are active on a monthly basis.
There are endless opportunities waiting for you on LinkedIn. But to harness LinkedIn’s true networking potential, you need to be active. And unfortunately, that doesn’t mean simply congratulating your friend for another year at the same company.
Your first step should be to complete your LinkedIn profile, which, ideally, should include the following:
- A catchy, keyword-optimized headline that describes everything you and/or your company bring to the table
- A high-quality professional headshot, as well as a banner/cover picture, can promote your business
- Links to content that demonstrates your value, or your company’s profile
- Details about your work history, education, and skills
Completing your profile is an important step in this process. If your profile is incomplete, then it’s less likely to show up in search results. You can also take note of how far along you are in the process using LinkedIn’s progress tracker.
However, completing your profile is only the beginning. As you continue expanding your network and professional reputation, be sure to do the following:
- Connect, connect, connect: Request to connect with everyone that you encounter in person and digitally. There’s no limit to the number of connections you can add!
- Stay in contact: You may not be able to find your connections’ email addresses, but you can use LinkedIn’s messaging feature to discuss trends and opportunities with your network. Simply sending a message on LinkedIn has opened up new opportunities for 35% of people who network!
- Show your skills: As you and your company professionally develop, continue adding skills to your profile. You can also endorse others for these skills and, in turn, be endorsed for your own.
- Participate in groups: Staying active in LinkedIn groups is a simple way to learn more about everything going on in your industry, create new connections, and strengthen existing ones.
- Post new content: As you might post on Facebook, you can also post fresh content on LinkedIn about upcoming campaigns, initiatives, and recent successes.
New opportunities are always coming up on LinkedIn— all you have to do is reach out!
4. Call In Favors (When the Time Is Right)
After your connections become part of your network, they’re likely willing to lend you a helping hand. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
Whether you need guidance, a warm introduction to a prospect, or access to an upcoming opportunity, capitalize on the connections within your network!
Financing Your Next Step in Business Growth
The power of networking can help your business grow, but unless you’re giving them a slice of equity, they’re probably not offering you capital. And often, capital is a key ingredient to laying the foundation for your next step.
The team at National Business Capital can help you find the best deal on a business loan through our 75+ lender marketplace! After filling out a 60-second application, we’ll touch base to learn more about your goals and pair you with the best possible options. You could receive funding as quickly as 48 hours!
Fill out the application to get started!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can Networking Benefit Your Career or Business?
Networking opens up both career and business opportunities. By connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs or those in your industry, you create a network you can draw upon for advice, partnerships, and revenue-driving opportunities to help as you grow and scale.
There’s no guarantee that everyone you meet will be able to help, which is why it’s important to cast a wide net and speak with as many people as possible.
How Can Networking Help Me Build a Strong Professional Reputation?
You’ll meet thousands of people throughout your career. Each interaction builds your reputation for better or worse. By networking, you speed up the process and can see more results in less time.
Remember: becoming a “professional” doesn’t happen overnight. Stick with it, take advantage of opportunities when they come about, and make every interaction count!
Are There Any Common Challenges or Misconceptions Associated With Networking, and How Can They Be Overcome?
One of the most common misconceptions is that networking must be done at designated networking events. This isn’t true at all; Any interaction with someone outside of your circle can potentially become a networking opportunity.
As for challenges, most people are hesitant to take the next step because they “don’t know how to network.” There’s no standard way to network. As long as you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and communicating with new people, you’re off to a great start.
How Can Networking Contribute to Personal Growth and Self-Confidence?
Although networking might feel awkward at first, networking can help build confidence and improve your communication skills in other aspects of your life. You’ll learn, develop, and finely tune your strategy based on your successes and failures. Once you start to see consistent results, you’ll find yourself speaking more confidently in your next conversation.