Open the door to highly influential people that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to easily talk to or find. Networking offers you a great source of connections.
Strong partnerships build even stronger businesses. This is where networking comes in. Generating mutual interest with professional contacts is vital, because an extensive contact list without an unofficial relationship won’t benefit your or the other party.
“Networking has long been recognised as an effective platform for professionals and business people,” says Marie Yossava of local PR agency Grapevine Communications. “Despite the tools now at our disposal, helping to forge new relationships, the value of long-standing partnerships cannot be underestimated.”
“By regularly networking, and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, you will achieve increased self-confidence,” says strategy consultant Kim Baird. “This is really important as a business owner, because your business growth is very dependent on talking to people and making connections.”
New ways to network are emerging all the time and they’re notalltechnology-based. Here are what some business leaders have learnt on their journey to success:
1. Make use of social media
Search for everyone you’ve gathered information on and follow them. If aren’t ready or are currently unable to meet the connection in person, social media is a great tool to stay in touch.
“With the advent of the Internet and social media, new ways of networking have overtaken personal interaction,” says Yossava. “Take LinkedIn, for example; a site designed specifically to connect members of the business community by allowing registered users to make contact, and share information with trusted industry peers. It has equally become an effective platform for acquiring new business.”
You shouldn’t let your networking only happen online though, as this is a way to initiate contact – not a long-term solution to relationship-building in business.
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2. Attend major industry events
Once you’ve made contact and you’re prepared to meet in person, take note of functions that could facilitate a fruitful connection.
“Make an initiative to attend events that you wouldn't normally. If you only go to things you like, you will never expand your horizons. Attending a variety of events allows you to meet people who can help you in different ways,” says CEO of the LaSalle Network, Tom Gimbel.
The annual Small Business Expo, for example, hosts a range of in-depth workshops across a broad range of strategic and practical business topics, as well as facilitates networking between entrepreneurs, business support services and investors. You can attend an event like this and find mentors, business partners and future employees.
3. Don’t limit your network
Not everyone you meet at events will be of immediate interest, but it doesn’t make the encounter pointless. Take this from Tom Farley, president of the New York Stock Exchange, into consideration:
“Sometimes it’s individuals completely outside your immediate sphere that end up being a connector or offering the savvy advice that propels you forward at a crucial junction,” he says. “The most successful people that I’ve met at the NYSE – including chairmen, CEOs, and heads of state – have the broadest and most interesting range of networks spanning industries, occupations, geographies and ideologies.”
Networking isn’t just for start-ups looking for investors to buy into their business ideas. It’s a vital tool for business growth, even at a later stage in your business’ life. You never know who you’ll meet at an industry event, come across online or somewhere you weren’t even looking. Be social, be bold, don’t limit your pool of connections – and you’ll soar.
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- Social media is a great place to identify specific people from particular organisations – make use of it (there are specific sites for this purpose).
- Make an effort to attend events you wouldn’t normally go to – expand your horizons (and contact list).
- Everyone at every level could come in handy one day – don’t disqualify people based on your (or their) industry or level of expertise.