“It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”
It’s a line that has been repeated countless times, especially in the case of business to business networking.
A solid and growing professional network is necessary for any company. Business relationships bring in new opportunities for growth. There is never a shortage of good advice from more seasoned business owners — not to mention the referrals your connections with them may bring. Additionally, being linked to high-profile industry figures helps in raising your brand’s profile, as well as your own.
The benefits of networking are invaluable, but not everyone is masterful at it by default. To help entrepreneurs gain more valuable connections, here are some useful business networking tips:
1. Start Local
The starting point is always the set of connections you already have. Who are the business owners you know at the moment? How many of those would be interested in your company? Do you have old colleagues in relevant industries? Everyone has a personal network; what matters is how you tap into your own, strengthen your existing connections, and build new business relationships.
Look into the local community you belong to. Chances are, there are business groups or organizations you can join. If there isn’t one, build your own business community from the ground up. Strike up a conversation with fellow entrepreneurs in the area. Develop rapport with these individuals who think like you and who share the same objective of growing their respective businesses. Not every business in your area is a competitor, and there are a lot of benefits to reap from having a strong and expansive business network.
2. Be Active Online and Offline
Joining organizations is a natural part of business networking, but being a member is just the bare minimum. For prospective contacts to know your name and understand what you do, it is important that they see you in action. One of the best ways to do this is to volunteer in various engagements that are tied closely to your trade. Find opportunities to go out there and be known to more potential connections.
Spread your influence online. Many overlook the importance of this business to business networking strategy, but it is something that is of great benefit to any brand, given the internet’s global scope. Harnessing the potential of the online space gives you a more well-rounded foundation in growing a business.
Take for example Starbucks. As one of the biggest name in the coffee industry, Starbucks values what customers and business partners have to say. To get insights and grow traction online, they created their own community or forum “My Starbucks Idea“.
Joining forums, interacting via social media, and expanding the reach of your website can serve as a foundation for your business network. Post valuable insights and other relevant content about your industry. Doing all these allows you to get in touch with customers and fellow business owners. Find a mentor for your business, but do not hesitate to step into the mentor role yourself for those less experienced entrepreneurs.
3. Exhibit Authenticity and Commitment
Networking is all about building and maintaining business relationships. Business owners are more at ease and more likely to connect with you if they see you as a genuine person. Whenever you attend a networking event, be honest and sincere to them. Express interest in what they do and try to learn from their good practices.
Consequently, commit to the bond you are building with your business networking prospects. It takes time to turn a contact into a part of your network. Be ready to commit time in cultivating a strong rapport. Sharing drinks and handing out business cards are not enough. Your connections have to know your name and your trade for them to see that the business relationship is worth developing.
4. Provide Value
Prominent American author Deepak Chopra once said,
Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.
When entrepreneurs establish connections, they seek to build business relationships that are fruitful. For this to happen, both parties should benefit from it — there has to be a two-way exchange of value. Give your connections advice and find ways to help them grow their businesses. They are more inclined to reciprocate when there is an apparent benefit in keeping the relationship strong.
5. Follow-Up on Key Contacts
A business networking opportunity is only as good as the follow-up that comes with it. After the initial introduction, take that step from having a contact to adding another name to your referral network. A follow-up is a good display of commitment towards building that business relationship. Send them a message, connect with LinkedIn, and set an appointment. A quick turnaround is always beneficial for both parties.
The importance of business networking cannot be understated. Proper business to business networking is necessary in turning a relatively unknown brand into an industry powerhouse. Follow these tips and learn how you can grow a strong network not just for yourself, but also for your company.