Whether you’re a business owner, start-up or a freelancer, getting to grips with networking can feel a little overwhelming in the beginning. The good news is, by the time you get to the end of this blog, you’ll know what networking is, why you should do it, how it works, and how to build it into your marketing strategy putting you on the right path to reaching your full business potential.

Networking Explained

Simply put, networking is a way of meeting people that you can create valuable connections with, who can encourage your confidence, ultimately helping you grow your business.

Why Network? New Connections = New Business

You are the face of your business, so attending networking events and making new connections gets you and your brand noticed. Being your own brand ambassador and letting your new connections know who you are and exactly what you do, is effectively free advertising with the potential to convert into new business.

This is also an opportunity to connect with people who are on the same journey as you, experiencing the same highs and lows as you, so there is an opportunity to collaborate, compare notes and share tips.

Networking will also educate you about other businesses, give you the opportunity to sharpen your business toolkit and keep up to date with marketing trends.

How To Network Well – Communication Is Key

Talking to complete strangers may feel a little awkward at first, but engaging face-to-face is an essential part of personal development and growth.

A study by Forbes found that 85% of businesses said that face-to-face meetings build stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Speaking to people with confidence is a business skill in itself, so smiling and being the first to say hello is only going to benefit you and your brand. Being confident in your communication and open with your body language will tell fellow networkers that you are keen to form a relationship with them.

It is a good idea to rehearse your introduction before you arrive at an event. All you need is a brief summary in your head about who you are and what you do, so you are ready to promote yourself. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but having an idea of what you are going to say is far less nerve-wracking than turning up unprepared. After all, the first 30 seconds of meeting someone really do count.

Be fearless and take what you need from this learning experience. Jump in there and ask a question first to prevent any awkward silences. Chances are you both feel a little nervous, so breaking the ice straight away will put you both at ease. It will also show them that you are genuinely interested in who they are and what they do.

Maintain eye contact with the person you are talking to. If you fail to engage, it is easy to come across like you are not invested in the conversation, drastically reducing your chance of forming a meaningful relationship with them.

Be yourself. People buy people and can see through fake personalities. Relationships are built on trust, so acting with integrity and being your most authentic self from the start, is the best way to form them.

Combining all of the above is a sure-fire way to give you a head start at any networking event.

How To Include Networking In Your Marketing Strategy

Networking should always be a crucial feature in your marketing plan and business development strategy. If you haven’t included it, you are missing out on an opportunity to form mutually beneficial relationships with professionals in your field as well as with potential clients.

To create a successful networking strategy, be clear on these 3 areas:

  1. Why do you want to network? Are you a start-up and feel a little lost? Are you looking for a new job? Are you a small business and just want to increase your contact list?
  2. Who do you want to make connections with and why? Are you looking for potential leads? Or do you just want to chat to like-minded people in the same industry? Decide what you need from the experience, then go for it!
  3. Where will you network? Based on the types of connections you require, understand which networking events will be beneficial to you and compliment your line of business.

Create Your Own Community

It’s important to remember that it’s not just about generating business leads. Networking regularly will allow you to build your own trusted community. Think of it as having a team of experts on hand to inspire you, offer support, and motivate you when you need it most. The more time you spend with your community, the more you will learn from them, and the more likely they are to remain a long-term contact.

Equally, being part of a business community is a chance for you to give something back and help your connections. Any expertise you can provide them with or introductions you can make to benefit them, will strengthen your business relationship and set you in good stead for a recommendation in the future.

Find A Networking Community

Throughout this blog, we have explored the benefits of attending business networking events. Networking doesn’t have to be forced or boring. In fact, being around individuals who are also striving for success is an inspiring environment to be part of. Those that set goals together, grow together!

There are many different ways to network, from attending events to a good old fashioned coffee date with someone in the same industry – it all counts. Get connected with people in the same boat as you, and become the business you deserve to be. Join the Network Inspired community for free.