Some people have their whole career to thank to networking, while others try to steer clear from any type of networking event. As an employee, you get to choose whether to engage in networking. If you don’t, no harm done. But if you’re an entrepreneur, networking is even more important. Business networking — networking as a business owner — is a vital part of being an entrepreneur.
And considering our background (we’re a community of entrepreneurs) we know quite a bit about business networking. So whether it’s to get new customers, boost your brand, recruit new employees, be on top of the latest trends, or even build confidence, here are the 12 reasons why business networking is so important.
Why is Business Networking Important?
Let’s take a look at 12 exact reasons behind the importance of networking!
1. Generating Leads & Referrals
For most entrepreneurs, the main goal of business networking is to get new clients. Whether you have a software product, you sell website development services, you have an online store, or anything else, you should always be on the lookout for new customers.
Of course, if your business is selling products online directly to consumers, chances are that you won’t have much success finding new customers when networking. However, for most entrepreneurs, it’s great to meet other people who may become a relevant lead.
And if not, your networking efforts may lead to referrals instead. In this case, the person you meet may know someone else who could be a good potential client for your company.
2. Building Partnerships
A related, but often secondary goal, is to connect with potential partners. Again, whatever business you have, it’s useful to have partners.
These can be people you work with to sell your products or services (e.g. affiliate partners), or even suppliers. More often than not, you’re looking for a company or person that is not a potential client or colleague, but rather someone who can help move your business forward.
3. Brand Visibility
Making your brand known among a wider audience is crucial for your company to grow. That’s why many people who engage in networking events carry business cards.
By talking to people, you’re spreading the word of your business — with the expectation that some day you will reap the rewards. Most of the time, you won’t find new leads or potential partners directly. Rather, you share a business card here and there, and over time people will get to know you and your brand — especially if you left a good impression!
4. Set yourself up for Serendipity
Seren-what?! Let me tell you what serendipity means. Officially, “serendipity is an unplanned fortunate discovery”. Basically, it’s a positive event or occurrence that you cannot plan for.
However, you can make it more likely for serendipitous events to occur, by being open to it and (for example) by business networking! The more often you network with others, the more likely that something will happen which positively impacts you or your business.
5. Acquire Knowledge & Ideas
At its core, any networking that you do is simply the exchange of information and ideas. Whether you 1) are at an online networking event, 2) take part in a mastermind, 3) go to a conference, or anything else, you will exchange a lot of ideas with other people.
The core benefit of this is that often you get to talk to experts in various industries. These experts will provide you with new knowledge and ideas about their field, which in some shape or form will certainly help you.
6. Be in the Know
By networking, you don’t just get random ideas, but if you attend the right event, you get to know the latest trends. For example, if you go to a marketing conference for e-commerce, you will learn a LOT about the latest trends in e-commerce marketing.
If you indeed have an e-commerce business, this is super valuable information. With a bit of luck, you can immediately apply a few tips or tricks that you’ve received to your online store, boosting engagement and potentially sales.
Certainly, this is just an example. But whether it’s the latest trends in e-commerce marketing; CRM software; engineering; or whatever niche you’re interested in, being in the know is incredibly important if you want to set up a lasting business.
7. Get Familiar with your Competitors
A very different goal of business networking is to use it to analyse your competitors. For example, if you go to an event where you expect your competitors to be, it’s a great way to find out all kinds of things about them.
For example, who are the main clients they work with? What software do they use? What is their pricing strategy, or why have they been so successful lately?
The answers to these (and many other) questions you can find by engaging with your competitors in a networking environment. Especially if you or one of your colleagues pretends to work for a different company — but that can be a bold and controversial move to make.
8. A Different Way of Recruiting
If you have a hard time finding new colleagues, business networking can be the way to go. Especially if you’re looking to fill ‘hard-to-get’ positions within your company (software developers for example), it’s great to engage in an event or community where a lot of people with the right background reside.
For example, if you’re looking to hire a software developer, go to a Hackathon! These weekend-long events are a prime spot for finding talented people that you may be able to hire in the future. And even if you don’t find the right candidate, they’re a lot of fun!
9. Advice & Mentorship
Although we talked about finding customers, partners and colleagues, some entrepreneurs simply network to meet like-minded individuals. In our experience, it’s immensely valuable to meet fellow entrepreneurs — for example, in a community like ours.
They’re the only people who REALLY know what you’re going through. They know what it’s like to build a business, and to go through the rollercoaster ride that is entrepreneurship. Other entrepreneurs truly can provide great advice, and in some cases, you can even find a mentor who has been there before.
10. Be a Positive Influence
On the other side of getting advice, is giving advice! Business networking is a great way to be a positive influence for others.
Since you’re meeting other entrepreneurs who are in a similar situation, you may be in a great position to help them. Perhaps you can recommend to someone a specific software tool that you’ve started using; you can advise them on negotiating with suppliers, or even give them new ideas on how to acquire clients.
This way, you can use what you have learned with your business, to help others, which is always a great feeling.
11. Building Friendships
Helping others, getting help and exchanging ideas may well lead to something more than just a networking acquaintance. You meet people who think alike, so being an active networker can definitely lead to new friendships.
The added benefit of such new friends is that you can use their help and expertise also outside a networking setting. Over time, you may develop a relationship where you congratulate each other for your birthdays, and call each other if you’re stuck on a specific business problem.
12. Increase Your Confidence
And last but not least, when you attend networking events, you’ll meet and talk to a variety of individuals. Often, you may even have to give a presentation in front of a (digital) crowd.
This means that business networking is a great way to increase your confidence! Especially if you’re somewhat introverted, or you don’t like going on stage, then business networking is a great way for you to practice getting out of your comfort zone.
Specifically, attending a networking event means that you get to meet a lot of different people who you will probably never see again. So even if you fail to introduce yourself or your company well, there’s another chance just around the corner. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve experienced a massive boost in my confidence after attending tens of networking meetups, and I’m sure you will too. Just make sure to prepare yourself well with a few tips, like picking the right events, knowing how to end a conversation, and learning how to properly introduce yourself.
Tips for Successful Business Networking
Now that you know all about WHY business networking is important, you’re maybe wondering: HOW do you become a successful networker?
So to end this article with a bang, here are some tips that we share with any entrepreneur who wants to step up his or her ‘networking game’:
- Always try to provide value to others. Be helpful, offer feedback and ideas when people are open to receiving them. This way, the people you meet will know they can trust you and rely on you, and that will have a positive impact on your image.
- If you have the time, attend a LOT of networking events and be a member of a variety of entrepreneurial communities. Most communities are free or have a free trial you can make use of (here’s ours), so you can simply determine which is the most suitable for you.
- Get out of your comfort zone! Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible. Questions are great in showing other people that you are interested in them. Plus, it’s a great way to start a conversation.
- Try to have a clear vision on what your goal is before engaging in any networking. Do you want more customers, build your brand, learn from others…? If your goal is clear, you will be able to pick the right events and people to talk to.
- After a networking event, try to keep in touch with the people you met! Send them a thank-you note through LinkedIn or email (or even a hand-written note) to strengthen your relationship over time.
- And last but not least, have a positive attitude. As long as you behave yourself well and are positive, you will create a lasting impression. Down the road, this lasting impression will certainly have a positive impact on you and your business.
So with this article, the importance of business networking should be clear to you — plus you now have the tips to go out there and network your butt off.
Just remember, business networking is based on authenticity and trust. The most important thing to keep in mind is to stay sincere. Every connection you make is an opportunity to learn. So if you approach business networking with this mindset, you’ll see personal growth for years to come.
And if you want to learn more about networking, check out our guide to networking for entrepreneurs.
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