For any small business, networking has become an essential and extremely valuable thing, and the return on investment extends far beyond that of monetary reward. Therefore, it is an important skill to work on.
Networking is usually free and enables you to touch base with lots of like-minded people. Attending the right events will ensure you are in contact with a large group of individuals with whom you can work and from whom you can learn. While there will always be the occasional lunch club that actually turns out to be full of people trying to sell you something, at any one event there is likely to be at least one individual who knows something you don’t, which could help your business progress in some way or another.
The majority of social networking events provide a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere for business leaders to meet and chat with similar people. Very often these informal chats will lead to recommendations and/or opportunities for the future. Meeting face to face provides a more lasting impression compared to over the phone or online. In order to maximise the benefits of attending a networking event, it is important to follow up the contacts you have made. Collect business cards and email each person regarding what was discussed while each conversation is still fresh in your mind.
Many people feel they are too busy to attend networking events. However, doing so not only provides a welcome break and a change from being in the office, but it can also help to spread the word about your business and what you have to offer. Networking events will add value to your business, spreading the word about your products or services and giving you the chance to gather inspiration and ideas for creating a more successful enterprise in the long term.
A strong and diverse contact base will carry your business forward for years to come, so it is important to nurture and maintain this. For start-up companies, networking can be the key to progressing past those first challenging months and years. Inexperienced entrepreneurs are able to meet experienced business leaders and investors and can begin to build a portfolio of useful contacts.
Networking events are all about providing the business community with mutual benefits. What you can do to help each other? Whether the event is a large meeting or a smaller, more intimate session, there are opportunities for creating useful business contacts and sharing knowledge and to learn from the experience of others, to give and receive advice and to promote yourself and your business. While many people find the idea of networking daunting, the crowded business environment of today has made it an essential element for business success.