Get the most out of networking – by Linda Hopkins

Good networking can have a wonderfully positive impact on your business and life. Below are a few thoughts and pointers from the team at Real Networking.Why networking?The positive effects of networking may take a while but are significant and long lastingNetworking can deliver more return on investment than any other tool for small business owners. Social media, advertising blogging etc. and so on are all great but will not offer you what you can get from face to face networking.Successful networking requires investment
  • Networking takes time – you cannot expect to get business from the first meeting; it takes time for people to get to know you and your business. So don’t give up if you don’t get business out of the first few meetings.
  • Can be daunting – you will likely be expected to speak for 1 minute or so to a group, and you will need to talk to people on the day about you and your business. So we recommend that you have prepared your ‘pitch’. Tell them WHO you are. WHAT you DO. WHERE you are based and HOW they can help you. Try to make it short, people get bored if you don’t have a clear pitch.
  • Finding the right group – you might end up in the ‘wrong’ networking group or feel it has been a waste of time. Maybe you find it is too ‘businesslike’ or maybe you find it too ‘relaxed’. If so, just try a new group, or give it another chance. Remember it’s all practice!
  • Can cost money – costs vary, some groups are free, some are inexpensive and there are many groups that carry ongoing membership fees plus on the day costs for meals etc. Try to keep track of the return you get from attending the meetings and being part of the group and if you are getting value for money.
Networking benefitsThere are many benefits to networking. Remember when dealing with people that the old adage that ‘people buy people’ still holds true. Networking in person is REAL engagement.Going out with a “what can I get?” attitude is not the way to approach networking. But there are many positives you can get from networking. Try to show a REAL interest in the people you meet: ask about them and their business. You never know who they know, so try not to be dismissive of anyone’s business, even if you feel there may not be any direct or obvious connection or fit with your business.
  • Friendship & Connection – running your own business can be lonely but networking connects you with like-minded people so you are never alone with your business. We all like to know someone has our back and that we have people who are there for us. Checking in with your networking friends can help keep you motivated; they are a sounding board for ideas, they will be your biggest cheerleaders, offer practical advice or just be there with a sympathetic ear if you need support. So make sure that you have made at least one connection at each event and a follow up 1:1 call or meeting, maybe even organise a ‘walkie talkie’…
  • Something regular in the diary to look forward to – people need people and sometimes just knowing you will be meeting up with a positive group weekly or monthly can make all the difference to your week!
  • Opportunities and building your network – Networking is an opportunity to be exposed to or introduced to new opportunities that might never come your way otherwise. If you are not getting enough opportunities, then you need to build your network.
  • Joint ventures and collaborations – networking is a great place to meet complementary businesses. These can be a great source of client leads, partnerships, speaking, writing and blogging opportunities etc. Businesses or assets can be bought and sold, you name it.
Some of the best opportunities are shared person to person over a coffee – make sure you are there!
  • Advice – we all like to give friends advice; sometimes they even ask for it! And there are some things that Google can’t tell you. If you are in the right networking group you can rely on your network to advise you and keep you on track, and you give back to your network in return. Give a lot and you will have credit in the bank when you need to make a withdrawal. The better your network the more knowledge you can tap into.
  • Access to guest speaker talks – many networking groups offer guest seeking spots which can benefit you twofold. Firstly you get to learn from experts and pick up tips for your own business, and secondly if you wish to develop your own public speaking skills a friendly networking group is a great place to practice!
  • Practical Assistance – mutual help is a huge benefit of being part of a network. Here are some of the ways you can benefit from being part of a networking community:
    • Promotion – giving you a boost in traffic, reputation, or sales.
    • Community – helping you build conversation and community.
    • Links – sharing news and information from their networks.
    • Introductions – connecting you with people you would like to meet or with people and businesses they think are awesome.
    • Getting you out of a hole – fixing dodgy code, giving you a heads up when you goof up, or having your back if a sticky situation arises in your business.
    • Positive Influence – you become who you associate with. This works in the negative too, as any parent will know when considering who their kid’s friends are or will be! So for a positive effect make sure you surround yourself with the right people. Their attitudes, habits, world view and associations will rub off on you. It is so important that you find the right networking for you and your business; it might take some trial and error to find that group but once you find your tribe it can be amazing!
Social media networkingNetworking on social media can be powerful but does not get you the ‘people buy people’ element of face to face so it is a good idea to do both. And if you find a great networking group you like that also has a vibrant online community, make sure you get involved!Most of all enjoy your networking meeting – both online and face to face.

To connect with Real Networking use our CONTACT form HERE.

Linda Warehouse Business PartnerCo-Founder Real Networking