Networking is an important part of business, especially for those who are new to the industry and seek to establish themselves and their enterprises. As you network, your ultimate goal should always be to build relationships that can assist you in your company’s long-term running.
Creating valuable contacts can help you in many ways. The people you meet could be potential funders, allies, partnerships, suppliers, staff, advocates, brand ambassadors and customers, all of whom can help you with gaps and challenges you face in your business. By forging a relationship with the right people, you will benefit from support when you need it and increased awareness of your brand.
If you are new to networking, it can be challenging to understand how to develop significant relationships with relevant people within the industry. In this guide, we have outlined the factors to consider when creating connections for your business.
- Meet people
- Embrace digital
- Join networks
- Identify introducers
- Always be ready to pitch
- Diversify your contacts
- Serve your and their needs
- Stay in touch
- Be selective
You cannot build connections if you don’t first put yourself out there. So, naturally, the first step to networking is meeting people.
There are many ways to meet people, such as attending events within your industry and seizing opportunities to liaise and work with new people. You can even meet people in the most unexpected circumstances, such as during your personal and leisure time. Over time, you may uncover ways they could potentially support your venture. It’s essential to be open to conversations with individuals and be ready to talk about your business so that you can seize any possibilities that may present themselves at any time.
In today’s world, and particularly following the coronavirus pandemic, more professionals use digital to carry out their networking. This could cover online networks, digital events and social media platforms like LinkedIn.
The advantage of online networking is that it enables you to reach a vast audience of people based anywhere in the world. It also allows you to build connections at a time that suits you, which benefits those who require flexibility or would otherwise be locked out of networking opportunity.
When using online platforms, be sure to identify contacts who are relevant and connect online so that you can enjoy a long-term relationship and get in touch when an opportunity presents itself.
Another simple way to get into networking is to join a set network. There are now many networks set up in the business world, including industry-specific, gender-exclusive and interest-focused. Many of these will also be online, making it accessible to a broader range of people and easier to engage in discussion.
Networks are helpful as they join people together as one community, sharing similar goals and interests. As such, you may be more likely to find people who are relevant to your business and who end up playing valuable roles in your journey. These networks will also often host events, which give you a chance to get to know members and develop alliances.
To find appropriate networks to join, look into local and industry bodies and determine if they are associated with any. You can also research online to find relevant groups or even ask any existing contacts you have if they can introduce you into their network.
Once you start building friendships in business, you may find that these new allies can help you identify further connections that assist your business.
When you have gotten to a comfortable point with someone, it is worth trying to establish any contacts they are acquainted with that may help you. For example, if you need a supplier, it might be worth reaching out to your existing network to ask for recommendations. Your connections can then act as introducers, giving you a legitimate way to approach new people with mutual ground to start on.
Potential introducers could include mentors, personal friends, business partners, and colleagues you may have worked with in previous roles. By understanding their unique networks, you can enhance your range of contacts and get the support you need.
Always be ready to pitch
The aim of building business relationships is to give your venture a leg-up, either through addressing a gap in your operations or finding people who will use and promote you. As such, the focus needs to be on your company, and you need to convince people why they should help you.
When networking, you should therefore have information to hand that shines a favourable light on your business. This acts almost like a micro-pitch, allowing you to showcase your company’s value (including who you are, what you do and why it matters) concisely. As an opportunity could present itself at any time, you need to have this in your head and ready to go constantly.
However, don’t fall into the trick of having a rigid statement prepared. Instead, you need to tailor what you say about your business to the person you are talking to, focusing on what might interest them. This will help you encourage buy-in in different networking contexts, emphasising the individual relationship you are trying to build.
Diversify your contacts
Networking is so essential because it enables you to serve a variety of business needs, ranging from funding and recruitment to sales and supply. If your entire network is filled with the same people, you will likely find it hard to address these different needs.
Aim to create a diverse network, encompassing people from different backgrounds, industries and roles. Doing so will help you establish relationships with a variety of people, which can help you access the support you need for every challenge you may face with your business. It may also help you find sales and opportunity in varying industries, diversifying your customer base and growing your market share.
Serve your and their needs
While business networking aims to find ways that your venture can be supported, you should avoid one-sided relationships as you will often find you get little traction. Remember that the people you are talking to also want to promote their company – so you need to find common ground where you both benefit.
When speaking to someone, aim to focus both on your needs and theirs. Even if they cannot provide immediate help for you, doing someone a favour can act as leverage in the future when you need something in return. This will also enable you to create stronger relationships bound by mutual support, bringing better results.
Similarly, avoid wasting time on people who cannot help your business. Not every person you meet will be relevant to your needs, and trying to befriend everyone is time-consuming. So instead, be polite and move on to connections who can actually assist you.
Stay in touch
We meet people every day in our lives, and it is impossible to keep up with them all. However, if you want to build a lasting relationship, you must stay in touch.
When you make a valuable contact, don’t discard them after your initial meeting. Instead, aim to touch base with them over time. That doesn’t mean having to have weekly conversations: it could just mean dropping an occasional message or catching up when you see them at an event.
By maintaining relationships in this way, you will prevent yourself from getting forgotten about and show the other person you are still interested in. This will help you to work together continually and access opportunity and support when it’s required.
As we’ve already mentioned, trying to be friends with everyone you meet would be incredibly time-consuming. When trying to launch or operate a business, there are often few hours left for networking. So, it’s crucial to be selective about who you’re going to spend your time on.
Focus on contacts who align to the goals and challenges facing your enterprise and who you envision being able to provide valuable support. If someone can’t directly help you right now but you believe could be worthy in the future, it may also be worth trying to build the relationship now for when you need it.
By being selective, you can minimise the time spent having to maintain connections while still ensuring results.
Networking is indeed a crucial part of business, especially when you are trying to establish yourself in the industry. However, it is vital to make sure that your efforts are effective and relevant to your needs for it to be worth the time spent building connections.
Following the steps we have listed should help you to identify valuable contacts and approach them in a way that allows for long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. As your business progresses, you will find these reliable forms of support and sources of assistance as you face challenges.
It can even help you to find funding and other essential help for your business.
If you are seeking funding support for your enterprise, we can help. We have knowledge of several different sources of finance within a network of contacts. As such, we can identify appropriate solutions for your needs and put you in touch with the right people.
Get in touch today to find out more.