By Teena Avery—E.P. Marketing & Events
Many of us understand the importance of networking in growing a business but often we are uncomfortable with the idea. Building strong relationships is the foundation to any successful business. This philosophy has been the corner stone of my career practices for over 20 years. Networking is all about the connections you make, they lead to the relationships you create and these relationships can help you to grow your business. What do I mean by having a networking plan? Knowing what types of networking events you would like to attend and who you are looking to meet at these events. Let’s explore a few different types of networking events that can help you grow your business:
Informal networking – This type of networking would be in a casual setting, like an after hours event with the intention of making connections in a relaxed atmosphere. This group will give you an opportunities to garner help, connections and support from many of the people around you or that you have the chance to casually meet.
Focused Networking – This type of networking is participation in a networking group whose sole purpose is to pass business references to other members in the group. This type of networking allows you to create trusting relationships with a specific group of business owners and to consistently refer business to them and them to you. There is a degree of accountability in these groups to provide referrals and recommendations for the members of the group.
Community Service – Being involved in your local community can really help you and your business to be more visible and can be considered a form of networking in which you and your company are giving back and in return you can get new business. Although giving back may not lead to direct business, the exposure for you and your business almost always leads to indirect business in some way.
Professional Associations – This type of networking allows you to create strategic alliances with other people within your industry. Most businesses are specialized and have clients that are in need of services that they do not offer, they can then refer business to you. Being a part of a professional organization designed for people in your target market is another great way to reach potential prospects.
Women/Men Groups – Being involved in clubs and organizations specifically designed for women or men can help you to create relationship with individuals who could be a great referral source. These groups are often a cross between the casual and focused networking groups. The atmosphere is more relaxed, they tend to provide more structure within the relaxed environment and give you opportunities to introduce your business to the group and focus on networking and building lasting relationships and often friendships.
There are many other ways to promote and network your business always keep your eyes open for opportunities and be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Two things to remember when you are making your networking plan for you business:
1) Do not limit yourself—try different networking opportunities. Make a networking plan.
2) Great/prosperous business relationships do not happen over night, it is a building process.
Relationships are the channel for success. People do business with those they like and trust. Serve as a resource, help others succeed.
To succeed you must continually connect with new people, cultivate emerging relationships and leverage your network.