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Networking is a great way to identify business best practices or industry benchmarks. Learning from what others do is a valuable strategy for all businesses. | Source: iStock
Networking is a great way to identify business best practices or industry benchmarks. Learning from what others do is a valuable strategy for all businesses. | Source: iStock

Networking for small business owners is crucial to relationship building

Successful businesses are constructed off the back of fruitful relationships. DAVID BROWN discusses the importance of networking for small business owners.

Whenever I mention networking, I often see the person I’m talking to squirm uncomfortably.

Building relationships with other business owners, customers, and industry professionals can help you improve your business, expand your customer base and gain valuable insights and advice.

Unfortunately, it’s not something that everyone feels comfortable with doing!

In today's fast-paced and competitive business world, it’s more important than ever to build a strong network of contacts and maintain these relationships over time

So, what makes it such a critical part of your small business strategy?

Increased visibility and exposure: Networking provides an opportunity for you to increase the visibility and exposure of your business to potential customers, partners, and investors.

By actively participating in local business events, online communities, and industry groups, you can get your business name and brand in front of a wider audience and improve your opportunity to secure sales.

Access to new customers: Building relationships with other business owners can lead to new customers and sales opportunities.

“People are more likely to do business with someone they trust, so be genuine and show an authentic interest in others. Don’t allow being an introvert to restrict you”

For example, you may meet a business owner who is looking for a product or service that you offer, or they may refer you to someone in their network who needs your services.

Customers can come both directly and indirectly from the relationships that you build with others in the industry.

Knowledge and insights: Networking with other business owners can also provide valuable insights and advice.

You can learn about the latest trends and best practices in your industry and gain new ideas for improving your business.

Many of the industry buying groups and meetings are as much about what you may gain from a coffee or drink with colleagues as official partnerships you get directly from the event itself.

Building a support network: The past three years have highlighted the importance of a strong support network.

Networking can help you earn the respect of other business owners and professionals who can provide support and advice when you need it.

This can be especially valuable when you're facing a challenging business issue or decision. As the old saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved!’

Successful networking

Be yourself: It’s important to be yourself and build relationships based on trust and authenticity.

People are more likely to do business with someone they trust, so be genuine and show an authentic interest in others. Don’t allow being an introvert to restrict you.

Be prepared: If it works for the scouts, it can work for you! Before attending a networking event, research the attendees and the purpose of the event.

"Many of the industry buying groups and meetings are as much about what you may gain from a coffee or drink with colleagues as official partnerships you get directly from the event itself."

Come prepared with a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Have business cards and a clear, concise ‘elevator pitch’ to quickly introduce yourself and your business.

Focus on building: Networking is not just about selling or promoting your business, it's about constructing relationships.

Take the time to get to know the people you meet and follow up with them after the event to continue the conversation.

Offer value: When networking, it's important to offer value to others. This can include sharing your knowledge and expertise, making introductions to others in your network, and offering to help in any way you can.

By offering value to others, you will establish yourself as a valuable member of the community and increase your chances of success. For more help with this, an excellent book is The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.

Attend regular events: To be effective, networking should be a regular part of your business strategy.

Attend regular events and join industry groups and online communities to meet new people and establish relationships over time.

Follow through: After attending a networking event, follow up with the people you met.

This could include sending a personalised email or LinkedIn message, or scheduling a coffee or lunch meeting to continue the conversation. Following up will help you build deeper relationships and increase your chances of success.

Networking is a critical component of success for small business owners.

By following these tips and making networking a regular part of your business strategy, you can build a strong network of contacts and push closer to success in your business endeavours.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Brown

Contributor • Retail Edge Consultants


David Brown is co-founder and business mentor with Retail Edge Consultants. Learn more: retailedgeconsultants.com

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