“It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.” I am sure that you have heard this phrase before, and it is absolutely true. Therefore, it isn't that far of a leap to assume that the more people you know, the more doors will open. Today, we will chat about why networking is important to grow a small business and what you can do to get started.
Why is Networking Important?
Small business owners utilize networking for various purposes, from learning from successful individuals to creating long-lasting relationships. Here are some of the primary ways you can utilize networking to grow your small business.
Learn from Successful Individuals
"If you are the smartest person in the room, find a new room." Speaking of quotes, have you heard this one? The world is full of knowledgeable, creative, and successful people. Through networking, you can learn from them. Whether you join their Facebook group, listen in on a ClubHouse meeting, or reach out on LinkedIn, you will find a wealth of information right at your fingertips. You can learn how to better improve your business, what mistakes to avoid, and so much more.
Create Business Leads
As you put yourself out there, you are essentially shining a spotlight on yourself. "Look at me!" While it is not nearly that self-centered sounding, it's true. By networking, you are making potential customers aware of who you are. When you demonstrate your expertise by providing information or joining a conversation, potential customers connect a real-life person to a business. Through proper techniques, you can use that gateway to generate business leads.
The more people that you know, the more chances you have of building connections. Connecting with people is a vital part of business, but you may not yet realize all it can achieve. When you are networking, you not only have the ability to attract new customers, but you also have the potential to make new:
And even friends
Long-lasting connections with people in your field initiate long-lasting results. A link you make today may not come into fruition until years down the road, but the seed was still planted.
Referrals are Life
Additionally, the more people you connect with means a greater spectrum of word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth referrals are worth their weight in gold. Any time someone else talks about you with friends, family, colleagues, or a random person they just met is free advertising!
Awareness of Trends
By being connected to the web of information provided by experts in your field, you will be aware of current trends. You will see what works and what doesn't, what's hot and what's not, and you will get the latest and most relevant news about new tools you can use to better your business.
Repeated Practice in Communication
I'll be honest and say that networking at first is hard. You trip over your words, your garble your way through posts, and you mess up your elevator speech numerous times. But you know what happens then? YOU IMPROVE! Communicating with others is both an art and a science, both of which take practice! By networking, you can iron out the kinks in your communication skills to eventually become an expert speaker.
Now that you understand the importance of networking, it is time to talk about getting started.
How Can I Network?
Often when one thinks of "networking," they assume that it means countless hours behind a computer on LinkedIn. While utilizing social platforms is part of it, networking is really about becoming a part of the community and your field. You want to connect virtually AND face-to-face! You want to make a connection and be memorable, AND you want to remember them in return! This isn't a one-way street or even a two-way street; it is a web, a giant web connecting everyone. Now, let's jump into how you can do that!
Use Online Platforms
You can use numerous online platforms to network with potential customers, experts in your field, and other local businesses. Just to name a few would be LinkedIn, ClubHouse, Facebook, Instagram, and anything else you already use. The key is that you have to put yourself out there; you need to reach out to someone else and connect. This is not just liking someone's Instagram picture but taking the time to send them a message with useful information. Just make sure it isn't salesy or annoying!
Be a Host
There are a plethora of avenues you can pursue when it comes to being a host. You could host:
A free class
A meet and greet
A weekly happy hour
A focus group
An accountability group
and so much more!
When you host these events, encourage guests to connect and share. Give them your information and take theirs. I also highly recommend giving them something related to your business, whether it is an information packet, a gift, or a PDF guide. Not only are you providing something useful that they will keep, but you are also putting yourself (and your logo) out there for more to see.
Conferences are an excellent way to meet with like-minded individuals and learn from experts in your field. Not only can you absorb new information that may be pivotal in taking your business to the next level, but you might also meet a potential business partner, collaborator, mentor, or friend. So, take the time and see what's coming up.
Is there an organization for businesses like yours? If so, you should consider joining. It may be an industry-specific organization, an organization specific to you (e.g. small business, gender, ethnicity, race, etc.), or maybe even one dependent on your location, like a Chamber of Commerce. By joining an organization, you can connect with other influencers in your industry or area. You never know what doors may open.
Talk Up Others
Another easy way to network is simply to talk up others. Do you have a brand, a store, or a business professional that you think rocks? If so, give them a shout-out! Refer friends to them, share (and tag) them on social media, or consider nominating them for awards. You get to support them, and it will also put you on their radar as someone they might want to work with or give a shout out to in return!
Collaborate with Others
Speaking of others, you can collaborate! When you collaborate, you get an intro to their audience, and they get an intro to yours! Whether you exchange articles for blogs, interview each other for podcasts, co-host a group or event, or something else, it will increase your audience pool.