Top networking tips to build strong and healthy business relationships
The term ‘networking’ became the power phrase of the 80s and 90s, and has continued to be an important tool in fostering relationships. If done well and with a degree of consistency, networking is an effective way to build your brand and customer and business relationships.
The ‘art of networking’ is a skill that some people have mastered with ease while others flounder, feeling lost and inadequate. Others are fearful to use the skill, as terms such as ‘smoozing’ and ‘rubbing elbows’ have given networking a bad name.
Traditionally, networking was conducted face to face, now there are a variety of online platforms to engage with your customers and potential business partners. Understanding which groups and platforms best suit your requirements will help avoid hours of wasted time spent engaging with the wrong audience. Knowing your market and having a clearly defined target audience will help you determine where your customers and potential business partners are hanging out.
Networking groups can be as structured as the ‘CCIQ Business After Hours’ or less formal, such as smaller ‘Meet Up’ groups. ‘Meet Up’ groups have become a popular way of connecting likeminded people across a broad variety of interests from business related, to writing groups and even to knitting. This form of networking can be powerful for business and personal reasons. Running a small business can be a lonely affair and mixing with likeminded folks can be inspirational. ‘Meet Ups’ can cost as little as $5 to attend, so it is a cost-effective way for new business owners to network.
Social media, especially Facebook and LinkedIn, has seen the rise of closed groups. Most people join these groups and remain on the sidelines rarely engaging and generally being a stalker. While this can be a great way to learn things, and stay up to date on what is happening in your industry, it is not an effective networking tool.
Being actively engaged in these groups is a great way to have your name at the forefront of the group. By that I don’t mean flog your product or service from the moment you start typing, but by being helpful and offering your industry knowledge.
What networking isn’t about:
- It is not about selling.
- It is not about ‘Look at me Kimmie’.
- It is not about annoying people.
- It is not about what people can do for you.
- It is not about closing the deal.
What networking is about:
- Being visible to both your customers and potential business partners.
- Building authority and credibility.
- Using the 80/20 rule = 80% helpful and 20% mentioning your product/service.
- Thinking of what can you do for others – be helpful and of service.
- Responding to people and engaging in conversations.
- Thanking people who share your content.
- Reaching out to influencers in your industry; sharing their content; commenting on their articles.
Nestled within the safe boundaries of your small business it can seem like a scary world out there, and networking may well bring back memories of the schoolyard. However, most small business owners are just like you – working things out as they go and looking to connect with likeminded people who they can help.
If the idea of going to a large event sends shivers down your spine, start small. Look up your local ‘Meet Up’ groups and attend one of these. Or join some online groups and watch for a while to see how it all functions and then begin to actively engage. Once you dip your toe in the water, you will probably soon find that you are swimming with the best networkers around.
No matter where your tribe is hanging out, be that on Facebook or at live events, networking is a dynamic way to build relationships. I have met some of my dearest friends from business networking events, and whilst this may not have made me money it has certainly brought me a wealth of knowledge.
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About the contributor:
Ann Wilson is the owner of Post Pre-press Group and founder of Independent Ink. Our team of specialist editors, designers and typesetters work alongside traditional publishers and self-publishing authors to help produce beautiful, professional books. With over 25 years’ experience running a small business Ann is passionate about helping entrepreneurs reach their full potential by sharing their unique story in a published book. Website: www.independentink.com.au