In a nutshell, Business Networking is about professional, like-minded business people helping each other to grow their businesses. But how do you develop a business network that is valuable to your business in the long term?
Developing a strong business network can benefit your business in several ways, from receiving feedback, bouncing ideas off other successful entrepreneurs and business owners, to opening doors that were once closed. Building your professional network should be something you are always working on.
Here are some routine business networking activities you can implement into your workweek to develop a network and build solid business relationships.
Always think about the long-term relationship
Building your business network is not about collecting business cards from every person you meet. Concentrate on forming long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial for both sides. Make a conscious effort to establish a two-way street for all your professional connections.
Business education workshops
By leveraging business groups or business education workshops, you will find yourself surrounded by like-minded and driven business owners. They can provide much-needed advice, support, and regular leads and referrals for your growing business in the long term.
Diversify your connections
If you want to be innovative, gain the perspective of people from varied backgrounds who can help you reach your target earlier. The business network you create should be such that it enables you to find ten more paths towards your goal.
Hang out at the same places the people you want to connect with gather
Look for local business networking groups in your business areas that you are seeking to grow and develop. Visit the places that the people you want to connect with meet up. Be friendly and social, and you will make new connections.
If connecting online, LinkedIn groups and Twitter chats are great places to meet like-minded business people. If you want to connect with a specific group online, then participate and introduce yourself.
Don’t always take — give as well
When networking, don’t always make it about you; make sure to share your knowledge and expertise and offer help when you see an opportunity. Helping other people will often come back to you tenfold. Helping someone is going to give them extra incentive to return the favour.
Face-to-face interaction counts
Try to have as many face-to-face interactions as possible with the members of your local business network. Make sure that your focus is on the person in front of you. Attend regular business networking events in your area. This small investment of your time will give you substantial returns in future.
The best way to optimise a business network is not to let it languish. All it takes is a simple phone call, email or catch-up for a coffee to keep your network intact.
Always appreciate: Everyone likes to be appreciated no matter how small the reason may be, so make a habit of saying thank you for any favour, big or small. Always do something considerate to return the favour whether in your business networks or to help your associates out.
Leverage your connections
It’s not easy to build a strong business network as it can be time-consuming, but creating a strategic, primary circle will help. Give more attention to people who have an existing robust network that you may be able to access. Even if your contacts cannot help you directly, they will link you with the right person.
There are many ways to connect with local business owners to grow your customer bases and generate sales; the key is to build business relationships, not just collect business cards.
“Great networkers are investing today to be ready for opportunities tomorrow.” – Allie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest