Today’s business professional has more than enough to-do items to stay busy throughout the day. But what about when you fold up the laptop and head out of the office? Developing and maintaining a healthy network of professional contacts is an underrated method of building a successful business. The wealth you receive from a robust contact group, both financially and otherwise, can be endless.
So why should you get more involved in networking?
Networking referrals are the best kind. This might be the top reason that many entrepreneurs take the time to attend networking events. Marketing is an important method to get your products and services out to the public at large, but there is no comparison to the high quality, individualized referrals and leads you can get from a face-to-face networking event.
Elevate your business and your personal profile. If you regularly throw or attend networking events, you will become a familiar face to other industry professionals and be known as a thought leader in your sector. By upping the frequency on your networking and providing sound advice and thoughts to others in attendance (don’t be a wallflower!), you will get more opportunities to participate in bigger events like speaking opportunities/panels, have more referrals sent your way, and even to gain exposure through a media opportunity here or there!
Find new opportunities. Networking isn’t all about closing a deal. Whether it’s expanding your services or hiring that new salesperson, at the end of the day, the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still rings true. When you expand your network, via social media like LinkedIn or attending brick-and-mortar events, you will find that perfect new candidate or get the information you need simply by tapping into new professional networks.
Get good advice. You can’t find everything you need in a book or online. Sometimes, chatting with people directly will provide you with some of the most sound, effective business advice you will ever receive. Listening to someone else’s trial-and-error or learning about a new tip or trick for a niche market can provide tricks you may never have found by sticking to what you know. You need to have a more well-rounded approach to learning, and professional networking is one of the best places to look. And don’t just be taker; instead, be prepared to share your own stories. Do you have an accountant you swear by? A lawyer that has gotten you out of a jam? Share your knowledge, and provide advice! These people want to listen, and providing your own input will build trust and camaraderie with your new peers.
Expand your digital footprint. You’ve spent all this time networking and attending events, so don’t forget to follow up! The easiest way to do this is by connecting on LinkedIn. This gives you a chance to share interesting articles and to comment and see what is going on with all of your new professional contacts and friends. If you are really vocal in-person, be sure to show that enthusiasm on your company page or profile. Expanding your digital footprint is also key to bringing in more business and, again, elevating your profile as a thought leader in your industry.
Make a group of new friends! At the end of the day, if you didn’t leave with a warm lead, it’s OK! You probably left with a new friend who you can bounce ideas off of, meet for coffee if you are feeling holed up in your home office, or ask for advice on a new business idea that just is not quite right yet. Work/life balance is key and meeting another like-minded person to chat with – about business and even personal endeavors – will make you a well-rounded entrepreneur.