This is a question I am often asked when talking with clients. If I were being flippant, I’d say, “Well duh.” However, not to belittle anyone truly seeking an answer, I would say, “Most definitely.” Networking can be the catalyst for any small business.
This moves on to the reasoning behind why a person should be networking for their business.
Obviously, there are pros and cons to networking. On the pro side most gratifying of all would be:
Looking on the con side of networking, to be honest, there could be a few drawbacks:
Let’s go back and review all the “pros” of networking. Obviously one goal is to increase more direct traffic to your door. Through networking, the opportunity to do this is huge. If you are in with a super responsive network group, you will soon be seeing word-of mouth recommendations come your way. Then it’s up to you to work your magic. Once this occurs, those recommendations will become even more recommendations and voilà, you are on your way!
With a networking group, you are involved with people who are business minded like you. They are looking to do the same thing…grow their business. This is first and foremost the reason why people join networking groups.
What is not often discussed is how some of these same people could turn into friends. Think about it, you are enthusiastic about business, so are they. This opens a great forum for sharing ideas and thoughts, all while building strong alliances. It is through these alliances that great businesses are built.
Learning more about the local businesspeople belonging to your networking group, you start to realize a few other things. Such as common business-speak. You may not be in the same business, but you all have markets you are trying to reach. Hence the common language of reaching your market.
Once you start having conversations with people doing the same thing, it can really get exciting. Like building a business, getting products to market, etc. The more discussions you have with fellow entrepreneurs, the more the ideas can flow. Or, you have those “Aha moments” when things fall into place due to a discussion with a fellow networker.
We all take inspiration from a variety of places. What better way to do this than through like-minded people who are seeking to create the same thing you are trying to generate.
Getting to know people within your network, you will learn about their needs and their wants. Sometimes you may have a ready solution to help them out, or you know someone who might help. Sometimes not. The point is, you as a businessperson, start to look at your fellow networkers as your community. A community that works together, strengthens, and grows together.
At first, it may seem slow to you, because you may not be getting a lot of referrals. However, if you can help others in your group to grow, you will experience karma. You know, what you give out returns to you in the same form. Maybe at first, this doesn’t seem important to you but over time it becomes invaluable. Think of it this way, your fellow networkers are working for you and selling your services for free. Pretty cool, huh?
Finally, as you begin to understand more about your community you can begin to see the potential it brings. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, learning your community and its needs could have added benefits for you.
When you meet with your fellow networkers, you will hear their stories, their trials, and triumphs so to speak. Through these conversations you may realize that they have needs. A need that possibly your company can fill or someone else you know can fill. Ultimately this adds value to other networkers. They, in return, will want to reciprocate and create value to you.
As you begin to understand your networking community, you will see it spill over to the greater community at large. Don’t be surprised if you find new people with whom you can do business. Again, as you spread your wings so you can increase your business potential. A just and worthy win-win in my book.
I mentioned early on there were some cons to consider when deciding to join a networking group. Let’s take a moment to re-visit each one in-depth. I will warn you however, what my look like a “con” could be a “pro” in disguise.
Our first topic is about time. Yes, investing in joining a networking group takes time (and maybe some money). The question is, how much is your time worth? If you are not seeing clients and/or sales, come through the door, you may have your answer.
It bears repeating, Networking. Takes. Time. You will probably need to set up individual appointments with each person in the group. This is standard operating procedure. The “why” is easy…to get to know each individual person and their business, one-on-one.
As you have these individual meetings, you tell your story, and they tell theirs. Sometimes interesting dynamics occur, like you land a client–or not. Sometimes you find they have a service that may help you. It’s always an interesting mix. The point is your time never wasted.
When you decide you want to join a networking group, I advise you shop around. There are many types and styles of business network groups to choose from. Depending on the budget you have set to join a group, will determine if you choose to stay or go. Of course, that is only one criterion. Meeting times, attendance requirements, and what is expected of you should all be taken into consideration.
If you have a healthy budget and multiple employees, this may work out great. For example, sending out a junior sales rep to the network meeting will give them the opportunity to meet people. In addition, it will help them to refine their sales pitch, allowing them to get more comfortable with speaking in public.
Carrying on with the above theme, this allows either you or your employee to try out different business phrasings. Learning how to speak about the different offering’s your company has, shows you what connects and what doesn’t. This can translate into improved impact in your sales pitch.
As with most things in life, networking comes with a cost. There will usually be a fee to join a networking group. That is why shopping around is important.
Joining a local group will probably be your best bet. Ask to sit in on one or two meetings to get the feel and vibe of the community. Don’t be shy asking what yearly dues cost. Remember you are a small business, money is important.
Once you find the right “fit,” embrace your new community and begin to learn from their experience. I have found that each group has their own energy. If you allow yourself to lean into that energy, inspiration will follow.
Do I believe networking for my small business is worth pursuing? Absolutely. There is no better way to get yourself out into the business world. I could go on and on, but I would rather end with a thought from Grant Cardone. He is bestselling author of The 10X Rule, and If You’re Not First, You’re Last. He said…
“Your greatness is limited only by the investments you make in yourself.” ~ Grant Cardone