Networking is crucial for every entrepreneur who wants to succeed. It helps you build relationships with potential customers and business partners, thereby increasing sales and profits. But what exactly does it mean to network in business?
What is business networking?
Business networking is the practice of building relationships with other companies or organizations through various types of in-person or online interactions in order to gain access to information, resources, influence and opportunities that may be beneficial to your business. The goal of these encounters is to establish trust and develop mutually beneficial relationships.
Traditionally, businesspeople and businesses have relied heavily on in-person approaches, such as trade shows, conferences, expos and networking events, to connect with other businesspeople and businesses. Social media has taken up its share as well in the last decade. However, there are other useful ways to expand your network as a business leader. Read on to find out more! Start networking
Why is networking useful?
Entrepreneurs often see marketing as the best way to promote their business, but in fact, an enormous proportion of business transactions happen through more informal channels: word of mouth, friendships, collegial relationships and referrals. The common ground here? Relationships! Advertising and marketing often involve one-way communication, whereas the essence of networking lies in developing friendly two-way conversations and interpersonal connections. It’s worth investing your time and energy in developing a robust network so that you can help out your fellow entrepreneurs as much as they help you.
Why should small and medium businesses network?
As an entrepreneur, building connections through networking is a key part of growing your business. It’s important for small businesses to connect with one another in order to optimize their productivity and scale their operations. If you want to start a successful small business, it helps to be surrounded by people who have similar goals and ambitions as you do. You can meet these people through networking opportunities.
Small and medium businesses are often more flexible and innovative than large companies. A strong network gives them access to resources and ideas from peers who share similar challenges and needs. In addition, networking gives you opportunities to build trust and find avenues for collaboration.
Benefits of business networking
Now that you’ve got the general idea about why you should develop your network as an entrepreneur, let’s break it down a bit further and take a look at some of the benefits in more detail.
Gaining new knowledge
It’s important to network because it helps you hear about new ideas and learn new things, such as developments in your industry. Talking with other entrepreneurs and business owners allows you to get valuable feedback and get a view of things from a different perspective. This can ultimately help you think outside of the box and find creative solutions to the problems or challenges you face with your own business. It’s likely you will meet business owners who have been in your shoes before and who can provide guidance by sharing their experiences. This can help you avoid costly mistakes down the road.
In turn, when you share your own expertise and knowledge, you can save other entrepreneurs time and money as well as boosting your professional reputation. You can contribute knowledge in a range of forms, from one-on-one conversations to putting an article in an industry publication or appearing on a business-related podcast.
As you increase your networking efforts, you will be able to expand your reach. By sharing helpful advice and valuable information with your professional network, you’ll become a resource in your industry over time. Your visibility will create opportunities for your business that you might never have thought of!
The more you network, the more you increase the visibility of your brand. Entrepreneurial networking is a great way to generate business opportunities, whether that be through a referral or a potential partnership with another firm.
Sometimes, you’ll come across opportunities for your own business. Other times, you’ll come across opportunities that would best suit someone else or another firm in your network. When you pass these opportunities on, you boost your own reputation too, and increase the chances of being on the receiving end next time! It’s all part of creating a healthy, collaborative small and medium business ecosystem.
9 tips for effective business networking
Building connections can give you access to a whole world of opportunities. As a small business owner you shouldn’t ignore networking as a channel for growth and success. Below are some successful networking tips to help you reach your business goals.
1. Know your business
It’s essential to have a good elevator pitch if you want to be successful at networking events. An elevator pitch refers to a short description of your company and its purpose—so short that you could easily share it in a quick conversation with a stranger in the few moments you spend together rubbing elbows in an elevator. Today, this short but informative answer is handy for using in online introductions, too.
Practice your elevator pitch so that you can effectively communicate with potential clients, professional associations, vendors, and others with whom you might want to do business. For online connections, write and polish a brief template message that you can drop into an email or other message on short notice.
2. Create an eye-catching logo
A great logo is essential when you’re business networking. Whether you create one yourself or work with a designer, a logo helps people remember your company and your value proposition. Your logo should reflect your company’s brand identity in its overall look, feel and style.
Use this logo consistently throughout your online presence—including on your company’s website, its various social media profiles and its B2BeeMatch profile—as well as on business cards. Your aim is to have a logo that represents your brand visually, sets it apart from all the others, and is recognizable and memorable.
3. Join a business association
One easy way to meet fellow entrepreneurs—both ones in the same field as your business and those that aren’t—is to become part of an association for small businesses.
Organizations you can join include:
-Chambers of commerce
-Small business administration groups
-Business associations for specific groups that you’re part of, such as women in business, Black-owned businesses and so on.
You can stay local by joining a chamber of commerce or another organization in your area, or find a broader organization. They both have advantages! Local groups are great if you’re operating a bricks-and-mortar business and want to network based on geography to get traffic into your shop.
But in today’s digital world, even if your market is mostly local right now, it can be incredibly valuable to join groups that serve a wide geographical range. For example, B2BeeMatch has major partnerships with the International Chamber of Commerce, which serves millions of small and medium businesses worldwide. You can also join an industry-specific group, such as the Ontario Aerospace Council, another major partner, which brings together Ontario’s aerospace industry (and for which we created the Aero+B2BeeMatch hub).
Joining these types of groups can help you connect with wider opportunities and expand your network beyond borders—whether you’re thinking of international expansion or just want to generate more online sales.
4. Serve your community
Serving your community is great to do for totally altruistic reasons, but when you’re doing it as a business, it’s what we call corporate social responsibility (CSR)—a beneficial blend of giving and getting. Your company serves its local community without getting a direct reward, but it reaps the benefits of an enhanced reputation and great visibility. There are lots of ways to give back to your community in relation to your company’s values and priorities, such as:
-Volunteering your time or your staff’s time for organizations that serve the needs of your community
-Contributing to charities that benefit your community
-Organizing corporate volunteering events to promote your business and support a good cause
5. Create learning opportunities
Consider organizing internships for students who want to learn from your experience and providing training for new employees. When you establish a reputation as offering great learning opportunities, your company will be more attractive to great talent and to the fresh thinking of the next generation of employees.
6. Use social media
Establish a strong social media presence on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. You can use these for marketing purposes, of course, but also, joining different groups, using relevant hashtags and staying active in conversations are all effective ways to grow your reputation and, as a result, grow your business.
Think of social media as your business’s online footprint: active, engaged, high-quality profiles boost your company’s credibility. (Make sure to link to them on your company’s B2BeeMatch profile!) If you attend in-person events, you can snap pictures, post them and tag the people you met so they can easily follow up with you later.
Networking is not just about you—it’s a mutual thing. And part of that means listening to what other businesspeople want and taking an interest in their concerns. An active listener is someone who listens in a way that shows genuine interest in what the other person has to say. Active listeners are more likely to gain valuable insights into people and their businesses. Be curious!
8. Follow up
Don’t just collect a pile of business cards and leave them on your desk to collect dust… and don’t do the equivalent with your online contacts, either! This approach is not likely to help you establish meaningful business relationships or find new clients. Instead, communicate with new contacts to build professional relationships. If you connect online, tag them in a post with a friendly shout-out and a compliment on their business. If you meet at an in-person event, make sure to send an email to remind them of your great conversation and offer to connect again soon if they’re interested. If you get matched on B2BeeMatch, accept the connection and then reach out and start a conversation. Even if you never end up working together directly, these are all great ways to expand your network!
9. Join the best business matchmaking platform
We’ve mentioned it a few times so far—now let’s give you the skinny! The B2BeeMatch platform was created to help small and medium businesses scale up. It offers business matchmaking for vetted businesses all over the world! What is business matchmaking? Business matchmaking reduces your opportunity cost by helping you save money on travel, networking events and other costly approaches to expansion and client-seeking.
It can be challenging to grow in today’s competitive landscape knowing that bailouts, tax breaks and giant grants are designed for big businesses, not small ones. Fortunately, B2BeeMatch recognizes the importance of SMEs, which is why our platform is designed to help entrepreneurs like you thrive. Join today and make B2BeeMatch a key part of your business networking!