Creating and maintaining a business network is an essential part of entrepreneurial success. No one is an island, they say, and it’s true – especially in modern business.
Why? Because it’s virtually impossible for an individual entrepreneur, no matter how talented, to possess all of the skills necessary to succeed in today’s complex, hyper-segmented world.
Maybe you’re a technical-minded engineer who knows lots about how to build products, but nothing about how to sell them. Inversely, a great sales person may need technical help – and either may know little about finances, legalities, operational organization, or the like. This is one of the major ways that business networks come in handy - they can connect you with the right people at the right time.
But a fruitful business network isn’t free – it requires cultivation. Keep in mind that a true business network (i.e. one that is actually valuable) is NOT simply a bunch of acquaintances you pester from time-to-time whenever you need something. You can’t show up only with your hand out – that’s not networking. Networking is about giving when you can give, so that you can take when you need to take.
In networking you get out what you put in.
If you’re still on-the-fence about the value of investing time and energy into professional networking, here are some of the top benefits to consider in its favor.
Business networking can be a powerful way to establish partnerships and collaborations because it allows you to meet and connect with other professionals and organizations that may be interested in working with you or your business. By building relationships and fostering communication with other businesses and individuals, you can better understand their needs, goals, and capabilities, which can help you identify potential opportunities for collaboration.
Business networking can be a great way to keep up-to-date on industry trends because it allows you to connect with other professionals and organizations who are also working in your industry. By building relationships and engaging with these individuals and businesses, you can learn about new products, services, technologies, and other developments that are relevant to your industry.
Networking events, like conferences, meetups, SXSW-style festivals, etc are often focused on sharing knowledge and discussing current industry trends, so attending these events can be a valuable way to stay informed. Additionally, joining industry groups or professional organizations can provide access to resources and information on industry trends, such as industry publications, online forums, and newsletters.
Professional networking can also help you stay up-to-date on trends by providing opportunities to collaborate and exchange ideas with others in your industry. By working with others and sharing your own insights and experiences, you can gain a deeper understanding of the direction in which your industry is headed and how you can adapt and stay competitive.
The word-of-mouth exchange of information - especially information about great tools and products is one of the biggest benefits of building a true business network. This is critical considering how fast things are constantly changing - you’ll never know ALL the new tools and systems yourself, you need to rely on the wisdom of crowds.
Here are some of the ways your business network can help you better understand the technological resources at your disposal:
No surprise here – networking is great for generating new leads. This is especially true if you’re a B2B business. By building relationships and fostering communication with these individuals and businesses, you can better understand their needs and how your offerings might be able to meet them.
Networking can also help you gain visibility and credibility within your industry, which can make it easier for you to attract new leads. For example, if you consistently participate in industry events and engage with others in your industry, you are more likely to be seen as a knowledgeable and trusted resource, which can help you attract new leads.
If you’re looking to establish yourself as an industry or thought leader, having a strong business network is essential. Ideally, this network should be hybrid - meaning it exists both in-person and online.
Business networking can help you build your personal brand / reputation via:
Don’t forget to GIVE when you’re networking. It’s not just about collecting infinite contacts – it’s about making authentic connections. Sometimes these connections are doing things for you, and sometimes you do things for them. Don’t “favor count”, simply give to those you can (whether it’s knowledge, advice, etc,) and ask for the things you’d like in a straightforward way. This is the path of authentic networking which leads to the creation of genuine, valuable business networks.
Having to test your messaging (personal, brand, etc,) in-person against the scrutiny of many fellow entrepreneurs is the best way to refine your messaging. Go to in-person network events and test out not only how you describe yourself and what you do, but also how you describe your company and product.
If you’re describing your product in a particular way that constantly seems to elicit confused looks or the same types of questions over-and-over, then don’t get MAD at your listeners. Re-consider your messaging. Try describing your product in an even simpler way and THEN see what happens. This is real-world A-B testing, and there’s nothing like it.
Networking and regularly communicating with your peers will make you wise beyond your years.
But remember to remain open. Don't get defensive if someone knows more on a particular topic than you. Simply relax, lean back, and listen. In some cases, you'll learn something - and, in other, you'll learn that maybe the person talking doesn't actually know more than you – maybe they don't know much at all. Remember, this is fine too - it's fine if someone you're talking to is merely blowing smoke. Why? Because it teaches you something about human nature and something about how you personally may NOT want to be. Learning how you don't want to be can be just as valuable as learning how you do.
Networking can be an effective way to hire new talent because it allows you to connect with other professionals and organizations who may be interested in working for your company. By building relationships and engaging with these individuals and businesses, you can learn about their skills, experience, and career goals, which can help you identify potential candidates for open positions.
Networking can also provide access to a larger pool of potential candidates by introducing you to professionals who may not have been actively looking for a new job but are open to exploring new opportunities. Additionally, networking can help you build your company's reputation as a desirable place to work, which can make it easier to attract top talent.
Business networking can be a powerful tool for fundraising because it allows you to connect with potential investors and other funding sources. By building relationships and engaging with these individuals and organizations, you can better understand their investment interests and criteria, which can help you identify potential funding opportunities.
Also, there are many networking events that are specifically aimed at helping entrepreneurs meet potential investors. Look out for these types of events locally and go to see who you might meet.
Collectively, the main thread – the overarching point of all these networking benefits – is simply that business networking gives you, the entrepreneur, a massive competitive advantage that should not be ignored or undervalued.
Business people who network and who consider networking something valuable are very often the most successful in their industries. Why? Because these are the entrepreneurs who actively cultivate relationships in their community, and there is nothing better or more advantageous to success than a healthy community.
There you have it, some of the top reasons networking is so important. Whether you do your networking online, in-person or, ideally, both – using a digital business card like Popl is a great way to put your best-foot-forward when meeting new people, and to get the most out of your networking interactions. Use Popl to instantly share your info, keep track of your contacts, manage follow-ups, scan paper business cards and more.
Want more business networking tips?
by Gerald Lombardo February 06, 2023 5 min read
by Gerald Lombardo February 03, 2023 4 min read
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