Networking — love it or loathe it; it’s a marketing tactic used by many business owners to generate leads. Do it right, and you’ll reap the rewards. Do it wrong, and you’ll be wondering why the heck you’re bothering.
The benefits of networking when you own your own business
Some of the advantages networking brings to businesses include:
- Relationship building – networking allows you to connect with other businesses, helping you to establish strong relationships with key people across various industries that you can call on if you ever need to.
- Solving those pesky business problems – if you’re experiencing a business problem, you’ll often find other people who have been in your shoes before. Use networking as an opportunity to learn from business owners who have experienced similar issues in the past. Our experience of networking tells us that the business community is tight-knit and will always have your back.
- Business opportunities – this is an obvious one. Networking connects you with people that could lead to new business opportunities and partnerships. A lot of our clients are those we’ve met through networking.
- Develop social skills – regular networking can help build your confidence. Learning how to think on your feet can positively impact future interactions you have with your employees, customers, and suppliers.
- Helping others – we’re very passionate about this one. Just as networking can provide you with helpful business advice, you can also be a source of help to others. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve made someone’s life easier. As a bonus, this will also help enhance your professional reputation.
- Raise your business profile – networking gets you, and your business noticed. By creating more connections and earning the trust of others, your business will become more reputable.
- New customers or suppliers – networking can help you find new customers or suppliers either amongst the network members or based on recommendations from others in the group.
Our top tips for networking like a boss
1. Bite the bullet
Francesca Tricarico, Managing Director, says, “I used to hear the word “networking”, and I always thought how formal it sounded. A bit fake. Maybe, even a little bit pretentious.
I had this misconception that networking was just interview after interview, and all conversations revolved around work. This all changed when I forced myself to go to my local networking group – Newark Business Club.
The thought of going was definitely worse than the reality. Everyone was incredibly friendly and supportive. Was it a bit scary walking into a room full of unknown faces? YES! Did it get easier every time I went? YES.
Now I run my own networking event – NYP Social.”
You’ve got to give it a go.
2. Embrace virtual networking
Ok, so most networking events in person involve some kind of food. And what’s not to like about that. Well, for some people, quite a lot.
If you’re the introverted type and the thought of walking into a room full of unknown faces makes you break out in a cold sweat, then consider going to online events instead. They’re more controlled. The breakout groups are usually smaller, and you don’t have that awkward period of time where you loiter making small talk until the event starts.
3. Be yourself
Life’s too short to not be yourself, so don’t try too hard when you’re networking and avoid acting like a used-car salesman.
If you don’t wear a suit and tie when you’re at work, don’t wear one to a networking event. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then you’ll act uncomfortable. We turn up in our Future Cloud hoodies, and no one bats an eyelid.
You don’t have to start a conversation with someone new by instantly talking about work. Ask the member how their weekend was. Or what they think about the latest social media trend. A topic that takes the pressure off. You can always move on to business later.
4. Look for the odd man out
Charlotte Wilson, Managing Director, says, “there’s always someone who’s standing alone. Either looking around or staring deeply into their Nescafe. Go and say hi and ask them why they’re attending the event, they’ll appreciate it, and you’ll be remembered for it.”
5. Get social
Of course, we’re going to put a tip in here about using social networks. When you’re at an event, tag yourself and show others where they can find you. Not only that, tag those people you’ve just met and thank them for their insights/conversations/the bacon butty they’ve just treated you to. Making people feel recognised is one way you can help to develop rapport with your connections.
You might be thinking, why is an accounting business blogging about networking. And if you are, then that’s fine; we get it. At Future Cloud, we’re more than just number crunchers. We’re business developers. We look at your data, and we suggest ways for you to grow and expand your business. That’s why we’re talking to you about networking, and that’s why we’ll continue releasing content that inspires you to progress and pushes you out of your comfort zone.
If you’ve got any questions on the topics covered in this blog or if you’d like to talk about using a digital platform for your accounting, get in touch as we’d love to hear from you.