Let’s be clear right at the beginning. Networking is not just about selling your stuff – whatever your ‘stuff’ might be – although many behave as though this is the case. So, what is business networking?
Networking is about making personal contacts, through whom you would hope to ‘do’ business or progress your prospects now or in the future. It is about meeting people, engendering trust, creating a metaphorical or possibly a literal ‘inner circle’. And it can be as much about sourcing skills or people as being the person others are looking for.
It is also useful – and in some industries or sectors crucial – for a whole raft of things, this might include but is certainly not limited to: personal development; any kind of professional advancement; finding out what is going on and keeping up with the latest developments; progress in your profession or gossip in your area; getting introductions; seeking collaborative work; joint venture opportunities; looking for associates, subcontractors or experts whose field may complement your own or be required by your business activities; for building your credibility and reputation; not to forget generally being seen, and being accepted as part of the local or wider business community.
There’s another element to networking that is often forgotten, and that is the value of straightforward human contact. The life of the self-employed or small business owner can be a surprisingly isolated and lonely one. Either working on your own, or employing a small team (who, let’s not forget, are your employees, not your friends) means that contact with others who are in the same position is limited.
Conversations about the challenges that you may face on a daily basis can be very difficult to have with friends, family or significant other. It can even be highly frustrating with those who have the relative security and stability of employment, who by definition would find it practically impossible to empathise with your situation or anxieties.
It can help you to feel part of something, of a greater whole and counter the isolation that comes with entrepreneurship. It can also reaffirm the status and belonging that is important for everyone’s wellbeing.
From my personal experience I have no doubt that it is the method of marketing with the lowest overall cost. In particular it is essential part of the marketing mix for professional services, knowledge industries of all kinds, any situation where trust is important, and generally anything where the ‘stuff’ that you sell is directly related to you as an individual. It can – if done strategically – probably offer the ‘biggest bang for your buck’, being highly cost effective.
There is an old adage that still rings true: people buy from people. As far as I can see, not much has changed in the decades I’ve been in business and with the exception of the addition of digital networking on social and business platforms, all the same concepts, behaviours and principles still apply when it comes to human interaction.
What has also not changed very much is that I still see the same problems being experienced by networkers. Moreso, it’s a shame that I don’t see many people doing it very well, even though they might think they are. Even more are not really doing it at all, even though they are physically present and possibly consider that to be sufficient.
“Networking for Business Contacts” is a new book for small and medium business owners and executives. It is a guide in how to start and develop a profitable network of business connections through the insights and learning of the author, Nigel T Packer.
Nigel T Packer is a consultant, business speaker, trainer and author of: ‘How to Get a Website that Works for YOUR Business’. He has spent the last decade compiling his research and developing this forthright guide to getting the best out of networking as a strategy for building a sustainable business.
As a business speaker he has spoken to many audiences across the UK, Europe and in the USA. View his recent TEDx talk in Swansea.
His NEW book Networking for Business Contacts is available from Amazon. Buy it today and start your journey to networking success.