Business networking is an affordable marketing approach used to expand sales opportunities through referrals/introductions. It typically takes place through meetings/gatherings, phone calls and increasingly the Internet.
Everybody has a social ‘network’ even if they don’t join specific events/groups created specifically for this purpose. Relatives, friends and people you meet at sports events/church may all count towards your social network.
1. Know Your Purpose
Successful business networking relies upon understanding the purpose of any group you join – be it an organized event or online service. Reciprocity should only exist where it makes sense for all those involved and takes into account individual aims, capabilities and trust relationships.
At least everyone has some kind of network – even those who do not participate in organized groups – which can be extremely valuable. Your network might include friends, family and acquaintances but should also include people you meet at conferences and events, corporate hospitality events or during daily activities in your community and beyond.
Keep in mind that 21st-century business networking is about being useful to your contacts. Socializing over drinks, boasting about yourself or your business to everyone you meet and gathering an army of followers on Facebook won’t get very far.
2. Know Your Target Audience
Understanding your target audience is the cornerstone of business networking, helping you determine what messaging will resonate with consumers, and ensure your marketing campaigns target specific individuals rather than casting a wide net and hoping it works out.
To identify your target audience, start by studying the demographics of your existing customers – what age, location and interests they share. Tools like Ubersuggest can also provide invaluable insight into which keywords people search for when looking for products like yours.
Social listening allows you to discover what consumers are talking about and their pain points, giving you insight into their needs so you can tailor products and services accordingly and craft compelling copy that converts potential customers.
3. Know Your Competitors
If you operate within the same industry, chances are there will be other businesses providing similar products and services. While competitors should not be seen as enemies, learning their marketing strategies and understanding their operations may help strengthen your own company.
Start by researching competitors by browsing their websites, social media pages and news articles about them. After gathering initial information, visit competitor stores or offices in person to observe operations firsthand. Join industry or business networking associations that serve businesses within your market niche as they may lead to partnerships or even joint ventures; joining this type of networking also gives you a deeper insight into your competition so you can better detect any vulnerabilities which can be exploited.
4. Know Yourself
Business networking goes beyond attending meetings and collecting free snacks; it’s an invaluable marketing strategy that can help a small business find clients and contacts it otherwise would have missed out on.
To be successful at business networking, it’s essential to know yourself. This includes understanding how others perceive you – a challenging endeavor in itself! Many people can be their own worst critics, often dwelling on mistakes and shortcomings they believe they possess. One way of getting past this hurdle is using assessments and activities designed to give a more objective viewpoint of yourself.
Reciprocity is also essential to business networking; therefore, you should prioritize helping and assisting those within your network, expecting that in return they may assist you as well.
5. Know Your Value
Business networking allows professionals to network and form new opportunities. Furthermore, networking helps professionals stay abreast of industry developments while meeting professional objectives.
Business professionals may network by attending industry events, joining networking groups or taking part in online forums. They may also give and receive career advice or professional mentoring services.
When engaging in business networking, it is crucial that you understand your value and can effectively convey this to others. Also important when participating is understanding that networking is two-sided – you should strive to add something of worth back into your network in order to establish trust and keep it active.