Barriers to Effective Networking for Small Businesses

Networking is one of the most powerful marketing tools available for small business owners. Many business owners still put up barriers – time constraints, previous poor experience, being too nervous or shy, are just a few examples. But, networking can be such a valuable resource to growing your business that it’s worth overcoming these obstacles. Learning from other business owners about how they became successful is valuable in itself, but building relationships with them can have massive marketing potential. Remember, you aren’t just connecting with them; you’re also making connections to their business network which extends your reach. So, if you’re putting up barriers, why not think again?

Examples of Barriers

I don’t have time

Although this seems a feasible reason for not networking, it’s based on a false premise. By investing your time wisely, you could potentially reach more people than you would from your office or by setting up one-to-one meetings. At a networking event, you are meeting many people within a short time span which you wouldn’t do ordinarily. And, it’s not only those present that you are reaching; you are also entering their network of business associates and acquaintances. Word-of-mouth referrals are marketing gold. By taking the time to build relationships and connections now, you are ideally positioning you and your company for future referrals and business development opportunities.

I get nervous when I meet new people

Fair enough. However, having the opportunity to sell your business to a readymade audience is a great incentive for conquering your anxiety. It is worthwhile knowing that just about everyone there will also be feeling nervous. Networking can be a valuable personal development tool too! So use networking events to your advantage. The more events you attend, the easier it will become when meeting new people. Everyone has to start somewhere. Look out for other individuals who are on their own and introduce yourself: ‘Hi, I’m John, mind if I join you?’ is a good starting point. You will probably be helping them too.  Go to events with a goal in mind. Make it small and achievable – for example; to meet two other business owners and engage in a 5-10 minute conversation with each. Then focus on the end goal. This can help you to overcome feeling nervous.

Networking didn’t work for me

What were you looking for? – Sales, referrals, affiliates, or something else? Did you give it a chance to work? If you were looking for immediate referrals and didn’t receive any, it’s no wonder if you felt disappointed. Effective networking doesn’t work that fast (although it can do in some instances) and is usually more like a process of building links with other business people and making connections with their networks. To be successful, you have to give it time to work. Also, did you approach people in the right way? If you were only interested in ‘selling’ your business and talked about yourself, it’s no surprise that it didn’t work for you.  Be prepared to listen to other business owners and learn what makes them successful.

Networking doesn’t interest me so why bother?

The benefits of networking for developing your business are huge, so perhaps it’s worthwhile persevering? Building relationships and exchanging ideas with other like-minded business owners are an excellent means to maximising opportunities for your business. You may even find opportunities you weren’t looking for! Also, consider the type of events you attended. Were they appropriate to your business needs? Make sure you find events that fit you and your business by visiting a few different ones. Be selective and choose only those that ensure the best use of your time; then attend regularly. By putting in the effort, you will get to know the influencers, and other business owners will get to know and trust you. From that vantage point, you will be able to market your business to its fullest; and you will secure referrals, sales, etc. A whole new world of business opportunities could be open to you.

Effective networking can have enormous benefits for you and your business, so don’t allow these or other barriers to stop you. Work on solutions, by either finding a way around obstructions or knocking them down altogether. Building relationships with other business owners can create excellent marketing opportunities and help you to reach more consumers. Developing and growing your business is essential for success so learning to network effectively is worth the effort.