Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients or customers. Business networking benefits are the intangible gains made by communicating with other professionals in or relating to your industry.
Often, it is the networking efforts of a business owner that yields the most results in small businesses. There are many other advantages to networking—of the many potential gains to be made, the sharing of knowledge is the most beneficial.
To reap the rewards of a network, it is important to understand what business networking benefits you can gain and how they can help your business to boost sales, increase efficiency and morale, and build awareness of your brand.
What Is Business Networking?
Business networking is a term that refers to meeting other business owners, potential suppliers, or other professionals who have business experiences—to help you grow your business. Networking gives you a pool of experts that range from competitors to clients, and allows you to offer something to them; hopefully in exchange for their services, advice, knowledge, or contacts.
Developing relationships as a business owner and offering assistance to others does more than give you potential clients or generate referrals. Networking assists you in identifying opportunities for partnerships, joint ventures, or new areas of expansion for your business.
Taking advantage of the experiences of others before you invest time and money in a particular venture can be invaluable.
How Does Business Networking Work?
Networking events or local business luncheons present you with opportunities to find others who are in similar circumstances as you work to grow your business. These events are generally put together for the purpose of introducing new concepts and methods being used while providing a platform for local business people to meet and exchange ideas.
When you meet someone, be sure to exchange business cards, and follow up later discussing points or topics brought up in conversations you may have had with them. After a few conversations, you may be able to bring up the issues you are facing. If they open up discussions first, you might be able to begin exchanging information, seeking knowledge, or exchanging business contacts.
Most business people are optimistic and positive. Regular association with such people can be a great morale boost, particularly in the difficult early phases of a new business. You'll find that many, if not all, business owners have experienced similar trials of ownership.
Much of local business is still done on a handshake basis, and the best way to network with other local business owners and entrepreneurs is through face-to-face meetings and local business groups.
You should not only attend the meetings of your networking group regularly but go prepared to offer something of value to the group. Choose the networking medium that's best for you.
What Are the Benefits of Business Networking?
Business networking might allow you to create awareness of or keep abreast of the latest trends or technology in your industry. A network can also provide you with professional mentors or contacts who might be able to assist you with problems you might need help with.
For example, if your business needs the services of a bookkeeper, accountant, or lawyer you may find the ideal candidate through your network. If your business needs equity financing you may be able to find an angel investor or venture capitalist through networking channels.
Networking is ideal for expanding your knowledge by taking advantage of the viewpoints and prior experience of others. For instance, if you are thinking of exporting your products or services, you may be able to get some valuable advice from someone else who has done similar business internationally.
Networking builds confidence, in that that your business and the methods you have employed to run and manage it are competitive and comparable to similar businesses.
Types of Business Networking
As you attend events, look for indicators that someone might be in a position to benefit your business, where you have something to offer as well. This could simply be conversations about your industry's market conditions as well as the trends each of you may have noticed within your industry. You can work together to develop an understanding of the market you both operate in.
Look for and attend some business seminars—cultivate new working relationships with your new peers and business associates, then communicate on a regular basis to help you all stay current.
The most important skill for effective business networking is listening; focusing on how you can help the person you are listening to rather than on how they can help you is the first step to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.
The best business networking groups operate as exchanges of business information, ideas, and support. There are many groups online that offer networking services and communities—LinkedIn is an example of a large networking group or site that can bring professionals together.
Organizations exist that are comprised of like-minded individuals in similar industries and fields of work. These organizations may have entry fees or other selection requirements, but they can prove vital for small business owners looking to expand their network. The American Management Association and the American Marketing Association are two examples of industry-specific associations.
Business networking gives business people the ability to collaborate with other experts to help them grow their businesses or improve their professional lives. The benefits of business networking include:
- Opportunities to help other business owners
- Receiving assistance from other owners
- Additional knowledge and perspective
- Communication with like-minded individuals