Updated: Jan 17
by Amy Collett, bizwell.org
Networking in business is a crucial step in your success. Not only does forming professional connections help your brand, but it also could give you an opportunity to assist other upstarts by referring customers to them when they need them most.
In this article, Women’s Professional Network offers a bit of insight on the benefits of networking and why you should start today.
Why Networking Matters
Before you begin, it’s important to understand why networking is so important in the first place. According to ZenBusiness, there are a slew of advantages associated with building a strong network. Among these are forging new partnerships, swapping referrals, and even helping you attract top talent for your business.
Everyone Is A Valuable Connection
So, who should you network with? The short answer: everyone. You never know when a former coworker or even customer might lead you to a new opportunity. Don’t be shy about offering a handshake and business card to people well outside of your industry or that don’t fit your ideal customer profile. The plumber? Yes. Someone on the bus? Absolutely. There are no bad connections, only missed opportunities.
Where To Begin
If you’re like most new entrepreneurs, you actually don’t know where to begin. You have many options, and one idea is to join the Women’s Professional Network. Through this and similar organizations, you’ll get to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs and business professionals. Together, you will engage, learn, and inspire one another. You also have access to exclusive events, college tuition discounts, as well as a listing in the membership directory.
In-person events are great, but you’ll find that the internet, and more specifically, sites like LinkedIn, are a great place to find other professionals. But, make sure that you are not “networking” only when you need something. Also, don’t ask for endorsements unless you’ve previously done work or have worked with your new online connection.
Ways To Maintain Professional Friendships
As difficult as it is to maintain personal friendships, those you establish under a professional premise may be even more difficult to nurture. But, you must make a point to invest your time into the people with whom you meet. One idea is to take them to lunch occasionally. Keeper Tax explains that you may even be able to deduct the cost of lunch out if your meal is with a possible customer or business contact.
Be A Good Partner
When networking, remember, it is not all just about you. Do make a point to send people the way of your contacts. For example, if you own an embroidery shop and someone needs custom ink pens, give your customer a contact from one of your networking groups. While there is no guarantee of a reciprocal referral, chances are good that anyone you send clients to will remember you when your product or service comes up.
Types Of Networking Events
Even if you don’t join a formal organization, there are plenty of networking events that are worth your time. According to the Career Contessa blog, these include industry engagements, networking happy hours, university lectures, career fairs, and alumni groups. You may also be able to garner valuable contacts from a speed networking event, which is like speed dating, only better. Before you attend any type of event, make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the venue and that you have plenty of business cards (or fun and unique alternatives).
There is no wrong way to network, as long as you follow the rules of engagement. What’s important is that you get out there, and build your empire. You can do this one event or one person at a time, but don’t forget to nurture each relationship.