Networking. It’s something that as business owners we need to do but we can find all sorts of reasons to push it to the side, time commitments, budgetary concerns, or simply trying to figure out business operations from day to day. It’s a lot and to add in meeting with others to chat, networking can feel like a chore. As an individual with anxiety, networking is a double-edged sword for me. I know I need to get out and talk to people about what we do but actually doing it? That sometimes requires me to go to events I don’t feel like going to because I had a long day or giving myself a pep talk in the car, telling myself that I have the opportunity to meet new and interesting people and can learn about what they do. More often than not, after leaving a networking event, I am glad that I went and at times have a few new business cards in my bag. But the power of networking comes with what you are able to do after the event more than what happens at the event.
Following up with individuals met at networking events is key. This is the beginning of building a relationship because in business, relationships are important. You may meet an individual who does not have a need for what you offer but you can still form a relationship with that person. From this relationship, you may be able to learn things they have found worked in their business that you may be able to use in your own. Likewise, you may find that you have resources that they may not have been aware of. The possibilities are endless when you look beyond the sale. You may even find you have a new friend.
There are a lot of different networking groups to choose from as well. From Chamber mixers to referral-based groups such as BNI, you will want to find a group that works for you. Not all networking groups are created equal and some have member expectations so check out a few meetings before making a decision if the group will work for you and your needs before committing.
Additionally, once you are in a group, evaluate the quality of the networking the group and what you have been able to secure from the group. This is more than just the amount of business you have acquired as a direct result of the networking group. Ask yourself if you could do more to generate interest in what you are doing in your business. Are the members in the group enthusiastic about what they are doing in their businesses? Have you been successful in building relationships with the individuals in the group? Remember, there’s more to networking than getting a sale.
While it feels amazing to be able to connect a direct line from actions you have taken to profits in your business, networking is more than that. When you can form a relationship with other business owners, you are building on your brand awareness, learning about other businesses and how they perform, and forming advocates for yourself and your business. All of which will boost your bottom line when you are consistent and purposeful with your networking.