When running a business, chances are you will need to do some networking, even more so if you are a start up. So I thought I would blog about the different ways of networking that I have used.
Why do we network?
It’s all about finding new customers, right? I’d understand if you are new to networking that this may be your first thought. However, my experience has shown that networking has so much more to it than simply getting more sales. Of course, if you are networking and someone hears what you do and says, ‘Fantastic! I definitely need you!’, then that’s wonderful. I’m not saying that this won’t happen, but there are many more benefits to networking than closing a sale.
- Sharing your business
Reaching out to people and telling them about your business and how it works is an important part of networking. You can let people know the passion behind your business, why you got into it, and how you can help. Likewise, you may discover a business product/service that you need but weren’t aware of the business itself. I have recently worked with a company that refits closed corporate buildings in London and rents them out as affordable apartments in great locations. This is a business idea I had never heard of before! I have also met people who didn’t know that admin tasks could be outsourced, so didn’t know that VA businesses such as my own, existed.
- Sharing your knowledge
Working as a small business, for me, was a completely new experience. Gaining advice from peers through networking both online and offline has really helped my business. If you speak to entrepreneurs in different industries and from different backgrounds, they are going to have different experiences and opinions that they can share with you. It may be a time-saving app, a new piece of legislation (GDPR anyone?) or a small tip on marketing on social media. You can get so much knowledge, simply from conversing with other people.
- Building your network
If you are working alone, or remotely from your colleagues, this can be quite isolating. Building your network can give you an abundance of support and advice, a crucial part of business growth. They can also be your biggest promoters, which can be great for organic visits to your social media or website. This could also develop into a new customer base.
Types of Networking
- Twitter Hours – These are designated hours where you tweet with others using a common hashtag (#) at a certain time. For example, there is #SmartNetworking or #LadiesCoffeeHour. You can also use hashtags that are based around a subject or a location. If you visit The Hashtag Directory, you can find information on the type of Twitter hour and the time/day that it operates in.
- Facebook Groups – These are communities on Facebook usually set up by a business page. Again, there is usually a common theme to this and sometimes you may have to request to join by answering a few questions about your business. This is so the owner or administrators of the group can see if you would benefit from joining. It varies between groups, but some have theme days (e.g. Tuesday Tips or Feature Friday) to get members involved. Alternatively, you can post a question or idea for people to collaborate with you on.
- LinkedIn Groups – These are groups that you can search for on LinkedIn, where professionals in the same industry (or with similar interests) can have discussions and ask questions. You can also create your own group based on a specific industry or topic
- Membership groups – These are groups where you pay a monthly or annual fee to be part of. You then may or may not pay a fee per event that you attend. These events can be great to build a rapport with other members. Also, these groups can sometimes be on a lockout basis, which means that only one person from each role or industry (e.g. accountant) can attend. It is worth checking if this is the case before paying for any events or memberships. The networking events can sometimes be over a meal (breakfast/lunch) and they may have a seminar or talk that would benefit the members. However, it could simply be having a coffee and meeting new people.
- Non-membership groups – These are groups that hold networking events that may or may not have a fee per event, but there is no membership as such. This can mean that attendees change more often, making it more difficult to build the rapport with an individual over a short space of time. Again, these events could have a speaker with a relevant message for the attendees and can include a meal.
- Special events – These are one off or annual events put together by either a non-membership or membership networking group. This could be to celebrate the group’s birthday or possibly reflect a special date or holiday (e.g. International Women’s Day, Christmas). These tend to be bigger events and consequently may have higher ticket price due to the running costs.
My personal opinion is to do what works for you and your business. Some people may find that networking in person is a bit daunting so may start online at first. I personally use a blend of both online and offline networking. I use the online networking groups to support the networking I do in person. This way I feel like I know the person I am networking with quite quickly. As I am part of a membership group, I have developed good working relationships with some other members and feels like this helps me converse with them online.
Face to face communication is vitally important, as in most situations 55% of your communication is through your body language and 38% comes from your tone of voice. This leaves only 7% for the words you use, which certainly puts a lot more pressure on that tweet or that group post online.
What types of networking do you use? I would love to hear what you do and how this works for you so please do get in touch.