So, what is business networking?
There are varied definitions of business networking but a simple one is: ‘Business networking is a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities.’ (Source: Definitions.net)
But for you to be able to ‘recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities’, it is easier if you have built strong business relationships.
So as I always say: networking is all about building business relationships and from there personal growth and expansion in your business should occur.
To network effectively and to achieve a good return on your networking investment, it is important to consider the following:
- Set specific networking goals. Networking should be included in your Marketing Plan and have definite outcomes measured in terms of your networking.
The outcomes you wish to achieve may vary depending on the stage you are in your business and whether you have been networking for an extended length of time. These outcomes could include a specific number of referrals or introductions you wish to receive per month or connecting with a specific number of referral partners who could refer you to others on a regular basis.
It is important to note, that some networking groups may produce many referrals but not all those referrals may be genuine and result in increase business for you. Referrals should not be forced but should result from people having built strong business relationships so that people know enough about each other’s business to refer business to them. Referrals should not be created because someone feels obligated to take a referral to a networking group, just to show that they have a referral.
- The networking events you attend need to align with the outcomes you wish to achieve. Some networking events are more social, some are designed to provide guest speakers and education only, some have very structured meetings purely for the purpose of exchanging referrals and some are designed to provide all these outcomes in the one meeting.
If you are wishing to receive referral business from your networking, you may decide to attend an event where many of the attendees are in your target market, or they may know those in your target market. To find your ideal referral partner at a networking event, you need to look for or ask to be connected with others that have a similar target market as you.
It is well known that the networking events that provide the best business outcomes with regular referrals for new business for the attendees, are those groups that hold regular weekly or fortnightly meetings. This is because the attendees meet regularly, build strong business relationships and get to know, like and trust each other. When this occurs, it is very likely that they refer business to each other when a genuine opportunity arises.
So, if you are looking to build strong business relationships and to receive referral business from others, then it is recommended that you be a part of a group that meet regularly and have structured meetings to facilitate referral business being passed.
- It may be important to you, to look for networking events that bring other benefits to you other than just referral business.
Referral business is not the only outcome you may be looking for from networking. Receiving regular professional and personal development from guest speakers and other members in the networking group might be of importance to you, or receiving genuine support from other like-minded business people.
- And last but by no means the least, choose networking events that are uplifting, fun and productive to give you the outcome you desire. Some networking events can be fun but not producing great outcomes of increased contacts and referral business. Some groups, on the other hand, can give you many referrals and increased business but can be very boring and you end up not wishing to attend because you are not enjoying the meeting.
We recommend you look closely at the benefits a networking group has to offer before you commit. Talk to some of the members to find out about the results they have received before deciding which group may be a good fit for you and your business.