Networking for business


Having previously been a partner in networking company Ellevate Networking, Michelle can guide you through the networking process, helping you to ascertain what type of networking suits you and give tips on what to expect and how to network effectively.

What is networking?

The word 'network' is used to describe a set of contacts who make up a group or association of people who have a common connection.

Groups can be set up by individuals or friends to provide encouragement or problem solving and to share experiences. Business groups may focus on making new contacts, providing peer support and new learning opportunities as well as existing to provide new business leads and motivation.

The common thread is the gathering together of like-minded individuals who share mutual ideas and themes and understand the benefit of belonging to a particular network.

Networking is basically getting to know others and building long-term sustainable relationships that are mutually beneficial. Online networking group LinkedIn can play a vital role in connecting people, whether to benefit a business or open doors to a way back to work.

Networking works!

Up to 70% of new business is gained through recommendation (introductions) and word of mouth which is why networking is so vitally important to anyone in business, whether they are an entrepreneur or part of a larger corporate organisation.

The power of networking comes from the fact that behind every person you meet at an event there are hundreds of potential contacts that they know and may introduce you to.

How does networking help?

The benefits of joining a business networking group are:

  • Raising the profile of your business within the local community
  • Meeting potential customers directly through networking
  • Meeting with potential strategic partners – other businesses, which you are able to develop a positive and viable association with
  • Receiving leads and referrals – the people you meet and interact with have a pre-existing base of contacts and will be expanding their base of contacts in the immediate to near future. They may well have the opportunity to recommend your business and/or refer you to people who would be customers or a strategic partner
  • The ability to be able to exchange ‘good practice’ techniques
  • keep up-to-date with industry news and build your personal reputation amongst peers

There is a common expectation that you can go to a couple of networking events and walk away with a small handful of clients from each event. Just like any relationship, networking is a mid to long term strategy that requires commitment and patience.

It is important that you attend as many of the networking events held by your group as possible. Networking should be viewed as a key element to the marketing strategy for all businesses and needs to be committed to. So often it is easy to believe that there isn’t time for networking but it is crucial to commit if you are looking to build a period of high growth. Diary these networking events in advance and then you will have no excuse not to go, after all you cannot expect to be uppermost in someone’s mind if you have not been consistent in your message.

Get ready to give – effective networking is about building relationships so that others feel comfortable either hiring you themselves or recommending you to their network.

Tips for networking successfully

  • Be consistent in your networking - don't only network when you need new business or new contacts. You want to have those contacts in place when you need them
  • Be targeted - know why you are networking and attend the appropriate groups accordingly
  • Consider it part of your key marketing plan - whether you are marketing your business or yourself as part of a larger organisation
  • Take time to schedule events into your diary and make them a priority
  • Follow-through on promises - make sure you send on information or make any introductions you said you would, preferably within 24 hours. If you don't, others may be less inclined to help you in the future
  • Turn up at events regularly. This is how relationships and trust are built up. We are all more comfortable recommending someone we have met more than once
  • Be interested. Seek first to understand others then to be understood yourself. They are much more likely to listen if they feel that you are genuinely interested in them also
  • Give first, receive second - actively look for opportunities to help others you meet. Don't only expect the leads to come towards you
  • Don't try to sell. Networking is about building relationships, not about direct selling. Or course the opportunity to sell your services to another member of the same group may arise and that is fabulous - but it shouldn't be your sole aim
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