What is Networking and why is it important for small business owners?
We all know that setting up an online business takes time, energy and perseverance – but it also requires a team of collaborators to support you on your journey! That’s where networking and finding your community come in. Networking is the act of meeting, connecting and reaching out to other like-minded professionals. It can take part at industry events, shared workspaces like co-working spaces, over email, or even via social media platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn.
Networking opens up new and unexpected opportunities, making room for collaboration along the way. Not only can it broaden your list of contacts but it can also lead to an exchange of ideas, new possibilities and more clients! Networking is also a great way to boost your confidence and improve your overall well-being.
So some of my top benefits of networking are:
Helps with finding new customers and clients:
Networking often takes places at events or expos which allow you to meet and integrate with potential clients and customers, allowing you to meet your audience face-to-face and build relationships.
Build partnerships and collaborations:
Networking also helps you and your business find partners, and people within your industry you can collaborate with. This could be people you want to work with, supply, or use as your own supplier.
Keep up to date with industry developments and trends:
Meeting and networking with people in your industry also helps you to keep up to date with what’s happening and the trends within your industry. You also get to learn from the experience of other business owners and entrepreneurs.
Gain access to resources and support:
Networking can provide small businesses with access to resources and support, such as mentorship, advice, and funding opportunities.
Improve your business visibility and credibility:
Networking and attending networking events is a great way to improve your business visibility and credibility. People will get to know about you, and this leads to increased business opportunities.
If you are new to networking, the idea of approaching professionals and talking about your work can feel pretty overwhelming. You see, networking is a skill that needs to be developed. In this blog, we will provide you with some much-needed strategies to build contacts, find collaborators and leverage relationships to build your business.
Strategies for building a network of contacts
The definition of networking is the simple act of communicating with others to develop a list of professional contacts. It involves meeting other professionals, sharing ideas and offering ways to support one another.
When you encounter challenges in your entrepreneurial journey, having a network of experienced individuals will certainly come in handy. This can lead to mentorship relationships where professionals offer tons of advice and support. It is also a great way to build your reputation, improve your knowledge and develop new skills.
In order to get started, you will want to build a network of contacts. The easiest way to do this is to start attending events. Undertake some research and look for some key industry events. These events enable you to meet other businesses within your field. Perhaps you’re in need of some advice to get started or you want some feedback on a new idea. These events are a great way to get that conversation started. If you’re a digital nomad, who works from place to place, then online networking sessions are another great option.
You can also build your contacts by joining professional networking organisations who provide regular events, listings and professional development opportunities. Universities, colleges and local libraries may also offer a range of events aimed at connecting small business owners.
Aside from in-person events, social media can also be a powerful way to broaden your network. Follow organisations within your industry, sign-up to their newsletters and keep your eyes open for other networking opportunities.
At The Wanderlover we have our Facebook community. This is an all-inclusive, high-vibe community of entrepreneurs, digital nomads, coaches, and creatives, who are here to support, inspire, grow and take massive action.
In this group we share and learn about all things social media, online business, mindset & travel. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions. Entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs ~ we are here to help you through the lows and celebrate the highs. You get to learn and network with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners. Completely FREE!
I also have Momentum Mastermind. A 4-month group program designed for the ambitious, creative, travel-loving entrepreneur who is ready to skyrocket the momentum in their online business adventure. This is an amazing way to network with other people who are all working towards similar goals.
Tips for finding partners and collaborators
Collaboration is the process of working with others outside of your organisation to develop projects and ideas. By bringing like minded professionals together, collaboration can improve problem solving skills, provide learning opportunities and increase productivity.
In order to reach potential collaborators, you’ll need to do some serious networking. Connect with industry influencers at events or via email. You can also use your own social media platforms to ask for potential collaborators. Once you have made some connections, take some time to evaluate each potential partner. This is your opportunity to discover what’s right for you and your business. Think about how the relationships can enhance your business and consider what you can offer them in return.
You’ll also want to negotiate mutually beneficial arrangements like an exchange of skills or expertise. To do this successfully, you will need to work with people who share the same goals. Be clear in your communication about what you need and what you can offer.
Techniques for leveraging relationships to grow your business
Good working relationships can provide access to new clients, new projects and a wealth of knowledge. Leveraging relationships is the way in which we create value through them. We can use our relationships for different outcomes whether that’s to get the job done or to build our reputation.
Before you get to this point, however, it’s important to identify your business goals and make a list of your current network. How can you use each relationship to achieve your desired goal? Next, make a list of the businesses and individuals who you want to build relationships with. This way you’ll have a detailed and effective plan for developing your network going forward.
In order to leverage relationships, consider joint ventures or partnerships where each party benefits in some way. With a joint venture, each business keeps their own individual identity whilst working towards the same goal. Maybe you want to collaborate by exchanging skills or perhaps there’s an idea that requires some financial backing to lift it off the ground. On the other hand, a partnership means that you share the profits and losses. Partnerships are a particularly good choice if you are hoping to reach a new market or develop a product. If you identify weaknesses within your business, partnerships can also be used to strengthen them.
Referral partnerships, where an individual or business recommends your brand to their own network, is another great option. Typically, referral partners recommend your services to people they know, including potential clients, in return for a reward. It’s important that your referral partners have experienced your service in some way so that they can start genuine conversations about it.
Before establishing these types of relationships, you’ll need to get to know the individuals or businesses you’ll be working with. Learn about them, their services and experience in order to build confidence and trust. To maintain the relationship, keep in touch on a regular basis and offer to help them when you can. A great rule of thumb is to offer help before asking for help and ensure that you follow through on your promise.
“It’s not what you know but who you know” is a common phrase that we often encounter. Networking and collaboration is a great example of what this looks like in action. Building good working relationships can offer tons of opportunities for both you and your business. In fact, it can actually accelerate your career faster than if you were to go it alone.
By meeting others within your industry, you can build a list of valuable contacts. This can lead to job offers, new clients, collaboration and more. Not only will you grow in confidence but you will also feel empowered in your role.
Of course, networking and collaboration isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s important that you spend time honing and improving these skills. Attending a networking working event or workshop is a great way to build confidence.
If you practice networking on a regular basis, you will build a wonderful network of supportive and inspiring collaborators to enhance your business.