1) Raise your profile – Consistently networking will help raise your profile within your local community, as well as online (if online networking is your thing).
2) Build long-lasting, genuine relationships – As you attend more events you will begin to build friendships with your network that will continue far beyond your meetings. By doing so, your network will begin to unconsciously recommend your business to their wider networks because, not only do they want to support you but, you are at the forefront of their mind when someone they know is looking for what you can offer.
3) Get support – Life as a self-employed business owner isn’t always smooth sailing. Having a network that understands the challenges and experiences can be real support during difficult times. It can also be a great source of new ideas and perspectives to help you navigate your business in an ever-changing market. Asking a trusted business connection for their help isn’t a hindrance, in fact, it can be complementary. And if you want to build your reputation within your networks, offering your support and advice is an excellent place to start.
4) Strengthen your business connections – Regularly touching base with your connections and sharing opportunities that may benefit them helps to strengthen your relationships with your community. Networking is about building trust and supporting each other, it is not about hard selling. If you consistently do this, your business connections will want to do the same for you too.
5) Learn – Many networking organisations have speakers at their events offering their expert knowledge and industry top tips for attendees to benefit from. In addition, by sharing your tips and advice among your network, they will also use the opportunity to share their knowledge with you too. The wider your network, the broader your access to valuable information.
6) Build confidence – Attending your first networking event can be daunting. But ask any experienced networker and they will tell you that it does get easier. Speaking about yourself and your business becomes easier as your confidence in your ability grows. Standing in a room full of people and talking is nerve-wracking for most people but, as with anything, practice means improvement, and networking can help you build social skills to utilise in all areas of your life.
7) Grow your business – By learning, supporting and building trusting relationships with your network comes growth. Both as an individual, by continuous personal development, and also as a business owner. Your reputation as a trustworthy, supportive and knowledgeable individual will precede you, and your business will benefit as a result.
Whether you are new to networking, or an experienced pro, there are plenty of networking organisations out there to support you. Not each one is the same, so my advice to you is to try out a few and find a group that works for you. And don’t stick to just one! You can network with multiple organisations, in fact, I highly recommend it!
If you’re nervous, then be sure to plan ahead. Have some discussion points in mind to help get conversations started without the awkward ‘discussing the weather’ small talk. You could try discussing the morning’s news headlines, or even a hobby you enjoy!
Plan your business ‘pitch’ – Note: this is NOT the be-all and end-all – the real magic is in the conversations you have. But having this prepared helps take the stress out of what you would like to say, especially if you’re like me and get a mind blank when you’re nervous.
Finally, be yourself. No one is you, and that is your power!
– By Bryony Landricombe, The Ribbons Network Dorset