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Business Networking Strategies to Grow Your Small Business

Business Networking Strategies to Grow Your Small Business

How do you plan to grow your small business? One of the most popular and effective methods to use is to create and carry out a business networking strategy. Networking can be useful to attract new investors and partners, as well as to build a referral network. It can help you increase brand awareness, too.

At Select Funding, we love watching our small business clients succeed. We’ve had many conversations about business networking. Since we know how essential networking is to business growth, we’ve put together this guide featuring proven business networking strategies that you can put to work for your company.

What is Business Networking?

Business networking is a term that refers to the process of meeting people with the intention of creating mutually beneficial relationships that drive business growth. In the world of business, networking may entail sharing information or resources, making introductions, engaging in joint marketing or promotion, or making referrals.

Business owners who engage in business networking may focus on meeting other business owners, suppliers, manufacturers, or professionals with experience that relates to their businesses. The idea is that meeting people builds direct relationships with them and may also open doors to potential relationships with their contacts.

Business networking may occur anywhere. There are many organizations dedicated to providing business professionals with the opportunity to meet one another and form connections. It’s also possible to network online or even at events where you participate in personal hobbies and interests.

We should note that business networking is extremely useful for job seekers as well as business owners.

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How Does Business Networking Work?

The easiest way to explain how business networking works is that it’s a targeted form of social interaction that helps business owners make connections and find opportunities through those connections.

Before you start networking, you should take some time to think about what it is you hope to gain through networking. For example, you might want any of the following things:

  • To build relationships with other business owners so you have people to share ideas with
  • To expand your list of contacts to include people in your industry or sector
  • To identify potential partners for future business ventures
  • To cultivate referral sources
  • To meet potential employees

If you decide to participate in a business networking group, you should make sure that you have something to offer the other participants. Even startup business owners may have experiences to share or serve as a sounding board for ideas from others.

What Are the Benefits of Small Business Networking?

There are many benefits to small business networking. Here are some of the most significant:

  • Build Business Connections. This might be an obvious benefit but it’s an essential one. Networking allows you to connect with people you might not otherwise meet and they can help you grow your business either now or in the future.
  • Get Perspective on Your Challenges. Running a business is hard work and it’s easy to lose perspective at times. Your network can provide you with an outside and impartial view of what’s happening.
  • Increase Your Brand Recognition. Small businesses may sometimes struggle to get their share of the market, particularly when they don’t have much brand recognition. Networking can help you increase the visibility of your company and brand.
  • Learn About Best Practices. In every industry, there are best practices that dictate how a business should be run. Networking helps you build connections with others in your industry and learn what they’ve learned about how to help their businesses thrive.
  • Build Confidence. The right networking strategy can help you feel more confident about yourself, your business, and your place in your chosen industry. The more you network, the more you’ll learn about how to build your company’s success.
  • Generate Referrals. Networking is one of the best ways we know to build a referral network and attract new customers to your business. Of course, you’ll need to remember that referrals are a two-way street!
  • Find Business Opportunities. When you spend time networking, you’re also making yourself open and available for any business opportunities that arise, including partnerships and joint ventures.
  • Help Others. If you’re someone who likes to pay it forward, business networking creates the perfect opportunity for you to extend a helping hand to other business owners, particularly those who are just getting started.

These benefits make it clear that business networking is something that can help you achieve your business growth goals.

Business Networking Tips to Try

Business networking can take many forms. You should choose the strategy that is most likely to achieve your desired results.

Build Relationships Before Asking for Favors

One of the most common mistakes people make in networking is leading with their needs instead of with their offers. Generosity can go a long way when you’re trying to connect with people.

You can implement this strategy by introducing yourself and asking, “What can I do to support you?” It’s a disarming approach that can help you make a positive impact and set yourself up to be able to get the help you need down the line.

Join Industry Groups

Every industry has professional organizations and groups to join, and participating in one or two of these groups can go a long way toward helping you make professional acquaintances to add to your network.

We suggest beginning with local groups or national organizations with local chapters. Sticking with groups in your area makes it easy to participate and maintain the connections you make while networking. You can expand this strategy to attend regional or national business networking events too, but starting local is the smart way to do it.

Build Local Connections

Industry connections are useful but in many cases, there’s an advantage to networking with other business owners in your area even if you’re not in the same sector. For that reason, you may want to consider joining your local chamber of commerce or alternatively, becoming part of a local service organization such as the Knights of Columbus or the United Way.

We particularly like this strategy for small businesses in categories that share an audience with other small businesses in the area. For example, local networking could be extremely useful for creating joint ventures and cross marketing opportunities.

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Make Networking a Daily Activity

While it’s important to attend networking events, don’t forget that networking can happen from your office or on your computer. If you recognize that one of your connections needs help, offer it. For example, you might introduce one of your vendors to one of your service providers.

This type of networking makes building connections a way of life and it can be extremely effective. It also has the benefit of feeling more organic than going to an event and handing out business cards.

Use Social Media

Social media may have started as a way for young people to stay in touch with one another but anybody at any age can take advantage of the connectivity and features that make social media so enticing.

The obvious choice for professional social networking is LinkedIn because users can post their resumes and information about their companies. However, there are also professional networking pages and groups on Facebook. We suggest LinkedIn for B2B businesses and Facebook for B2C businesses.

Venture into the Unknown

There are undeniable benefits to networking with people in your area or in the same industry, but don’t be afraid to venture into new territory to see what you find there. The downside of always sticking with organizations and people you know is that there are no surprises.

One option is to engage in affinity marketing, which connects people based on their shared interests and activities instead of their industries. An obvious example is the networking that happens on a golf course. Meeting new people who shares your interests can be fun for you and rewarding for your business.

Attend Conventions, Conferences, and Trade Shows

Just as there are professional organizations in every industry, there are major conventions, trade shows, and conferences that happen throughout the year. Some examples include the MAGIC apparel trade show that is held in Las Vegas every year or the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit.

While attending these events isn’t free, they do provide an undeniable networking opportunity for small business owners. You can learn a lot by attending talks and seminars, meeting people in and connected to your industry, and making deals over dinner.

Tap Your Personal Network

We’ve focused on business connections so far, but you should also take advantage of personal connections to build your business network. The people in your family and circle of friends may know people that could be useful to you professionally.

The key with personal networking is to be mindful of how much you ask and when you ask it. You don’t want to burn bridges or wear a person out by nagging them to introduce you to someone. Approach the request carefully and make sure to offer something in return.

Get the Capital You Need to Implement Your Networking Strategy

Small business networking requires a little planning and a lot of willingness to put yourself in front of people who have the potential to help you grow. Part of the plan is making sure you have enough capital to pay for professional memberships plus the travel and entertainment expenses that go hand-in-hand with networking.

Do you need financing to make networking and business growth possible? Select Funding is here to assist you! Click here to read about our small business financing and begin the application process today.