The Power of Networking and 5 Tips for Getting it Right
We come across a lot of people who seem to underestimate the power of networking in business. We also come across people who try to convince themselves they don’t need to network because they are worried about doing it. Then there are those who fully embrace it and credit the growth of the business in a big part to networking.
I am in the last group. Networking has had a massive impact on our business and also on me as a business person because of the support I get from other business owners who I have met through networking. There is a bit of an art to networking well and here are my top tips for you to find the true power of networking.
1. Find the right networking groups
When I first started networking I hated it. I rocked up to this networking event with a bunch of people in suits, mainly men and mainly about 20 years older than me. I was not wearing a suit. I spent the first half hour listening to an incredibly uninspiring talk about having a pension and then spent the rest of the time either being talked at by someone telling me how fantastic their business is or feeling patronised.
After that experience I didn’t bother with networking for a while. I thought it was a waste of time and I put my energy into social media and also researching other local businesses that did seem to be in line with ours and who we might be able to collaborate with to get ourselves out there. It was through doing that research that I found a lovely person called Trudy Simmons who is a business coach. I reached out to her and she replied suggesting I joined her local networking Facebook group for women in business. I did and everything changed.
This was the group of people I needed to be networking with. They had a similar approach to business as me, I could help them, they could help me and as time has gone on a lot of them have used Ready Steady Websites® to create their website or membership site. They have also spread the word about us, invited me to do guest expert slots to their audience or write guest posts for them. I have done the same for a lot of them too. I loved the in person networking sessions when they were happening and the Zoom sessions during social distanced and lockdown times have been amazing too.
This experience encouraged me to go and find other groups that were like this and I’m now active in a number of networking groups and I am having the same experience in all of them. People want to help, I want to help people and I do it without anticipation of them becoming a client or Ready Steady Websites® member and the more I do it the more people do become members. So find the right group and get networking.
2. Networking isn’t sales
You’ve probably gathered this from what I’ve been saying above but just walking up to someone, telling them what you do, telling them how fantastic it is and why they should use it, really does not work. It just annoys people. When someone says “That sounds great. Do you have a card? I’ll take a look”. That’s not a lead. That’s them being incredibly polite and getting rid of you.
If someone has come up to you and said they need what you do and could you tell them more, then that’s fine. But don’t launch into it uninvited.
Networking is about genuinely getting to know people. Ask them about themselves not just about their business. Ask them how they got interested in what they do. Ask them what they did before. Ask them if there is anything they need support with in their business at the moment. You never know, you might be able to help or have experienced what they’ve got a problem with and give them a recommendation of someone who can help. All of this is good networking.
3. Be consistent in showing up to feel the real power of networking
The more consistent you can be with your networking the more you will get out of it. It depends on the groups you are in, but I try to attend actual networking sessions at least monthly in the groups I have identified as being the ones that are really right for me. I might show up a bit more if I we have got something coming up that we know really would benefit people in the group, such as one of our challenges, so that I can let them know about it.
If there is a Facebook community alongside the networking then I keep an eye on that regularly and join in a discussion in the comments or post at least weekly so that I’m staying in touch with people. Once you get known in these groups you will start getting tagged in to answer questions related to what you do and then it’s really easy to support people and get known for being an expert in your field.
4. Buddy up if you don’t feel confident
I know for many turning up to a networking event whether it’s on Zoom or in person can seem terrifying. In this situation find a buddy who will be there for the first one with you. This could be someone else who also is worried about doing their first one or it might be someone who is an old hand who can be there for support.
If you don’t actually know anyone to ask, if you are in a Facebook group that also has networking events then pop a post in that group saying, “I’d like to try networking for the first time but I’m a bit nervous, who would like to give it a go for the first time with me?”. If it’s a good group that is worth networking in then you will get an awesome response to that and will find more than one buddy to metaphorically hold your hand. If nobody is offering support then go and find another group.
If you would like some guidance on some good networking groups on Facebook, let me know and I will give you some suggestions.
5. Have your website ready to share
If you get to the point that someone does want to know more about what you do because they need your services or products, make sure your website is up to scratch to share with people and show off how awesome your business is!
If you would like more support and guidance around getting yourself out there and growing your business then take a look at Your New Business Roadmap, an interactive online training event that we are running in May. Or, if you need a hand getting that website up to scratch then we are running our 12 Day Perfectly Planned Website Challenge again in April, which is free, so you have no excuse not to be proud to send people to your website!