Why is networking important? In this article, I'm diving into the art of business networking, how to network effectively, and getting to know the right people in your industry.
No matter what business you're in, an essential ingredient in making your business successful is knowing the right people.
To do that, you need to know how to network.
The cliche that it's more about who you know rather than what you do holds true to a large extent.
For example, a survey showed that 85% of job positions are filled through networking.
Everything along your entrepreneurship journey becomes exponentially easier to pull off as you build your network of people.
Knowing the right people will open many doors. A good networker will be more able to attract the right partners, employees, and clients.
The importance of networking
Why is networking important?
New business owners often fail to see the importance of networking. Usually, because it's slightly misunderstood.
Networking doesn't only mean that you're targeting rich people who could potentially fund your business one day.
Networking serves many more purposes – and when done right, can have a very big bang for the buck.
The benefits of networking
- Collaborate. Finding ways to collaborate (resource sharing) with your competitors and inducing win-win situations instead of competing with them.
- Get insights. Learning from people in your industry, staying up to date with the newest trends, and getting new external input.
- Help others. Helping people in your industry can be really powerful because most people return the favor tenfold in the future.
- Find clients. Recruit clients by building relationships instead of cold-calling and contacting random people.
- Partnerships. Connect with partners with who you can start new collaborations and resource-sharing.
- Get mentors. Find mentors and advisors who already accomplished the things you want, and ask them for help to take your business to the next level.
- Look for investors. Finding investors when you're casually networking is often more powerful than going the traditional routes of getting funded.
- Establish presence. If you're attending the main industry events, people will just assume you're one of the big players. Just being present is a form of marketing.
“Sure, that sounds good”, you're probably thinking.
But in my experience, it's hard to understand the real benefits of business networking until you have launched several businesses and seen that much of your success could be attributed to your network and sharing of resources.
How to network effectively – 6 keys
Lets's do a little business networking 101.
Networking doesn't come naturally for all of us, and you do need some skills if you want to get the best benefits out of it.
It can even seem difficult in the beginning, when you're putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. Don't be discouraged by that, it's perfectly normal.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to work on this.
Continuously working on becoming a better networker will make this whole process much more fun, and eventually, you'll see that it can lead to very good things.
Here are 6 networking principles you should apply to get the most out of your networking.
1. Help others first
The easiest way to get value from people, is to give them value first. People open up when they see you're providing value to them.
2. Connect people
Be the connector who pairs up the relevant people who are looking for each other. They'll always remember you and be there when you need contacts for yourself.
3. Create a connection before asking
Focus on building a connection with people, rather than trying to just squeeze out value. It's fine to have a purpose in mind, but if that's your only objective, the relationship might seem artificial. Somehow, bad intent always comes across in your energy and can have the opposite effect.
Often we meet people, share interesting ideas on how to collaborate, but it just fizzles out and comes to nothing. Ask them out for another coffee or lunch if you saw some potential.
5. Be the one who approaches
Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. People will respect you for being the one to approach. Open up to people even if you're not sure it's a good idea, you have nothing to lose.
Venues for business networking
It's common for people to use the excuse “I don't have any interesting people around me”.
Guess what, that's probably because you're not in the right peer groups.
The truth is, you can find people to network with everywhere. No matter where in the world you are, there are people with the same goals as you.
And if you have a really hard time finding people, consider going to where people are instead. I realized this when I was 19 years old and moved to Malta where I found most of my network of entrepreneurs.
Here are some ideas on places to go both online and offline to start participating in business networking more.
1. Seminars and conferences
Attending seminars and conferences is what we can call a Pareto efficiency.
It's the best place to casually mingle with relevant people, and at the same time, learn more about your industry. If you don't have any seminars in your city, use this as a great excuse to travel.
- Don't wait for people to come up to you. Be the one who approaches. Everyone is in the same boat.
- Aim to make real connections. Avoid pushing your agenda too early.
- Become a speaker. It makes it easier to network afterward as people will line up to speak with you.
2. Socialize with your existing network
We often overlook our existing network and don't realize that there might be a mutual opportunity. Start with the people you know and then extend this to the outer layer of your circle, also known as your acquaintances-acquaintances.
When you start to embrace this networking tactic you realise just how many interesting people you come into contact with every day if you're willing to look.
Always be open-minded and respectful to the people you meet, you never know when you might cross paths again.
- Enjoy the process. Networking with friends doesn't have to happen over a serious meeting. Meeting for coffee or playing a game of golf together are all chances to discuss business in a neutral environment.
- Expect the unexpected. It could be your personal trainer, deliveryman, or friend's uncle who holds the key to a whole new avenue for you. Keep an open mind and remember there's nobody who is above or beneath offering value to you.
- Keep your network updated. Use social media, email, or social gatherings to keep your acquaintances updated on what you're up to so they can connect the dots to any potential opportunities.
Open up a Twitter account and start engaging in related topics. Share your insights by tweeting daily and comment on the tweets you find interesting.
One common mistake people make with Twitter is focusing only on increasing their following. In reality, that number means nothing if Twitter isn't serving any purpose for you.
So get clear on what you want from Twitter, and if that's to network then you need to be pro-active in following people in your niche, making conversations and adding value.
- Automate. If you don't think you have time to use Twitter daily, then you haven't tried batch writing and automating your tweets. This saves lots of time and frees you up to be making interesting conversations.
- Let your personality shine. Just because you're using Twitter primarily as a networking tool that doesn't mean all of your tweets should be selling yourself or your business. People do business with people, so show your personality and have some fun.
- Make people feel good. Strategically support people that you are interested in doing business with by retweeting and commenting on their content. Genuine compliments go a long way and will make them notice you in the long run.
Simply connecting with people on Linkedin can help get some eyeballs on your business. Send requests to potential prospects and a brief message where you introduce yourself (keep it short) and explain how you see this potentially turning into a synergy.
If you commit to building up your LinkedIn profile and gaining authority you'll have people queuing up to connect and network with you.
- Don't harass people. Nobody wants to be sent an excess of messages from a stranger. If somebody doesn't get back to you, take the hint and wait some time before reaching back out.
- Offer value. There are so many ways to offer value through LinkedIn from creating posts to commenting your advice and support to others. As a rule of thumb, try to give out more than you ask for in return and you'll be rewarded in the long term.
- Complete your profile. LinkedIn claims that profiles who fill out all of their information are 40x more likely to receive opportunities, so put aside an evening to fill in any gaps in your profile.
5. Facebook Groups
There are a lot of groups on Facebook with people who are there because they also want to network and find win-win arrangements. You can get your questions answered, help others and find other practical ways to collaborate.
There is pretty much a Facebook group for any niche, industry, or interest you have. If you cannot find one to join, create your own!
- Stick to the rules. If you're joining someone else's Facebook group, check out the rules before you start posting or connecting with people. They exist for a reason and respecting them will make you a lot more popular.
- Listen as much as your speak. This is a rule for life, not just Facebook groups actually. Don't just go into the group with the goal of telling people about you, listen to their stories and see what you can learn.
- Give special discounts. If you've spent enough time nurturing relationships in your Facebook group and think it's time to share your product then give some kind of special offer or value to this specific group, such as a discount code. This will make people feel special, not used.
6. Host an event
Plan a networking event yourself. This is a great opportunity to offer value to your existing network while expanding it at the same time.
As a host, people will respect you and therefore be more open to finding collaborations with you.
- Provide food and drinks. Everyone loves free refreshments, and when people are having a good time they'll be more open to new opportunities.
- Create FOMO. Ask everyone during and after your event to tell their network about what a great time they had. This will induce a fear of missing out and people will want to get involved with your next event.
- Create opportunities for others. Think about how you can involve other people within your network in your event, such as getting them to perform a talk or speak on a panel. This will offer value for those joining the event and they'll be grateful for the opportunity.
7. Industry meetups
Find smaller, local industry events that you can join. These are often more intimate and specific to your niche and are full of exactly the kind of people you want to get to know.
You can join websites like Meetup and Eventbrite and check Facebook Events for any meetups being hosted in your area. Alternatively, create your own industry meetup and find people who would like to join.
- Expand your network while you're away from home. If you have a trip on the horizon and can sacrifice one morning or evening to joining a meetup then find out what's available wherever you're visiting.
- Follow up! Make sure you follow up with the connections you make at an industry meetup so they don't forget you and you can grow the relationship.
- Offer to help. Listen to the problems people have and offer advice and help with anything you can. They'll remember your kindness, respect your expertise and you'll stand out over all of the people just trying to sell themselves.