Networking refers to the practice of interacting with associates, fellow entrepreneurs, colleagues and other people to build a network of far-reaching contacts. Today, networking has become an integral element of conducting business as it helps to reach wider audiences and perhaps maximize client base in the process. A very famous entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki once stated that the rich get where they are because they understand the value of creating strong networks.
An entrepreneur has to realize the benefits networking has to offer and subsequently take steps to create a strong and large network of contacts. A modern business thrives on networking to generate business referrals. These referrals, in turn, help the business to function and flourish.
Steps to Build Business Networks
“It isn’t what you know but who you know that makes a difference” – this is an age-old adage and it stands true till date specifically in the business industry.
The significance and potential of a strong and powerful business network are immense.
Aspiring entrepreneurs can take the following steps to build strong business networks:
1. Attend Business Breakfasts: Business breakfasts present an opportunity for entrepreneurs to mingle and interact. This opportunity can be exploited to best use by socializing and thus creating contacts.
2. Join Trade and Business Associations: Trade and business associations aim to serve the local or regional business community. Several entrepreneurs and businesspersons join these associations to take advantage of the numerous benefits they have to offer. As a result, they have a large member base; this provides an opportunity to get to know other entrepreneurs from diverse industries and to learn from their experiences.
3. Business Card: A business card is an identity of an entrepreneur; it reflects the values and the ideas one stands for. It is extremely important to have an impressive business card that gives the right vibes; in the absence of the person, the business card should have the potential to present the right image of the entrepreneur as well as the business.
4. Host Seminars: Seminars are a form of academic instruction on particular topics offered by professional organizations in which individuals from different businesses participate. Hosting such seminars helps the attendees to get to know the speaker and also his/her background. This goes a long way to initiate and maintain business contacts.
5. Attend Seminars: Attending seminars is a good way to meet people with similar interests and to create contacts that help to build a professionally sound business network.
6. Active Referral Systems: It is imperative to have active referral systems in place. These help the entrepreneur to refer one’s work to other business owners. In this manner, other business owners will also refer the entrepreneur to their contacts. This helps to build more business and make more progress. The ability to generate referrals from other business owners is the single most relevant benefit of having a strong business network.
7. Public Speaking Skills: In order to maintain a strong business network, it is quite important to be able to interact and communicate effectively with people. This requires that the entrepreneur practices public speaking and sharpens his/her communication skills to be able to better interact with others and to leave a mark in their minds.
8. Buy Business Owners Lunch: In order to maintain the contacts in one’s network, it helps immensely to buy lunch for different business owners occasionally. Lunch time provides the opportunity to catch up on the latest business trends and market forces and also to communicate on a one-to-one basis. Having lunches together des not take away from the time assigned for daily tasks and also helps to stay in touch.
9. Participate in Local Community Events: Local community events and charities present good opportunities to market oneself and the business. It is helpful to get behind their scenes and help with their organization; this creates a good public reputation and a good image for business owners. Other business owners would also like to interact and learn from this image-building step.
10. Regular Press Releases: Press releases are a good means of communicating the recent changes and developments in the business to the public. Press releases also have and edge over regular advertising copy as they tend to be more authoritative and trustworthy. Thus, press releases should be regularly submitted to stay evident in people’s mind and to increase business awareness that helps to build contacts.
Benefits of Networking
Businesses with strong networks have an edge over its competition in numerous ways.
First, strong business networks are more updated with the latest business news. This helps entrepreneurs to learn about business prospects prior to others in the community. A business grapevine is an informal source of information and news; entrepreneurs with strong business networks are more aware of the information passing out in the grapevine.
Second, well-networked entrepreneurs are perceived as authority figures and leaders for others to follow. In business, perception is everything; people like to work with those people who are perceived as key players in the community. Third, a good network provides wider exposure which comes down to more capital investment opportunities. Investors tend to be more comfortable investing in businesses whose entrepreneurs are well-known and respected.
Ideas to Boost Your Business Network
1. Sponsor a series of business awards within the community
2. Start a business networking breakfast and invite special speakers
3. Interview various business experts and make the interviews available on the business’ website as pod casts or mini reports
4. Start a forum on your business website and invite other business people to join
Successful entrepreneurs have realized the value of networking and have reaped its benefits in the form of success and prosperity. They don’t indulge in networking every now and then rather they are constantly involved in the process of networking and creating strong business contacts.