Why Should Small Businesses Network?

July 10, 2012 in Business Networking, Small Business, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

We all do it – often without even realising it. But mention ‘networking’ to some small business owners and they think it’s something luvvies do, or involves formal dinners and presentations, or costs too much. In fact, networking can be a simple as meeting someone at a friend’s house and discussing your hobbies – or even telling a friend about a new small business idea. It can be as basic as accepting a LinkedIn invitation to be someone’s contact or a Facebook ‘friend’ request.

Business networking, in essence, is meeting people, making contacts, spreading the word about your small business. And it’s not just the small business element that can cement the contact, either. If you meet someone with the same leisure interests or who knows some of the same people as you, that someone will be more likely to remember you – and come back to you to use your product or services, or spread the word about you and your business to others.  Say, for example, an accountant meets an aromatherapist at an SBN networking meeting who turns out to have the same passion about cooking or sport or music or whatever as they do; that person then meets someone who mentions they’re looking for a new accountant. Because the aromatherapist remembers your shared passion, she recommends the accountant.

Another way to help strengthen networking contacts is to keep attending networking meetings, and just about every other event you are invited to or can think of. Who do you remember most, the people at a dinner party six, nine or 12 months ago who you never met again or the ones you see once a month or so, renewing and expanding the contact each time you meet?  I rarely even remember names after one meeting, but meet me six times and I not only know your name, but remember what you do and how you do it!

And another thing about networking meetings like the Small Business Network: a regular visitor to SBN meetings who wants a particular product or service won’t bother going to the phone book or the Internet, but will go through their SBN contacts, or wait until the next meeting to talk to the fellow-member who can fulfil their requirement.

Really effective networking does take a little effort. You have to talk to people. You have to file away – mentally, at least – who does what, when, and where. You have to have a feeling for which contacts might be the most beneficial, while at the same time knowing where you can find any and all contacts, should you need them. And you have to be receptive to any contact who reaches out to you. If someone asks you to be their contact on LinkedIn and you refuse, don’t expect them to support you in future; say yes, and you have a business friend for life.

It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t cost much, if anything. It’s only common sense. But networking can mean the difference between success and failure for your business. For if you don’t blow your own business trumpet, who will?