How Networking Could Benefit Small Businesses

19/01/18

Whether you have experience in networking or not, heading to business networking events to promote your SME could bring about a number of potential benefits for your company.

To steer you in the right direction with this, below you’ll find a number of examples of such benefits, as well as some useful information around the best ways to network for your business.

The Advantages of Networking

Meeting and greeting other business owners, entrepreneurs and employees at networking events and other meetings could lead to you:

Creating more Business/Sales
This is arguably the biggest advantage on offer; you could speak with other businesses who might then want to work with you, or make use of the product or service you provide. 

Opening up More Opportunities
If you don’t strike any new deals, the other main positive is that you could find opportunities to pursue at a later time, or failing that, find potential business partners you could use to improve your operations. 

Increasing your Business Network
Taking a step away from the commercial aspect of a business networking event, it’s also a way for you to increase the number of contacts you have. Having a wider network can give opportunities for you to go on and meet or communicate with more and more people, not just in your sector but in wider sectors. 

Learning more about your Industry
The advice and information you can gain with business networking groups, or just in general business meetings, can be invaluable in the long run. Any new tips and insights into the working world are things you could use and implement at a later point within your operations, potentially helping to improve the way your SME works. 

Creating More Awareness of your Brand/Name
By networking and meeting other people in a business capacity, you’re also indirectly helping to get you or your SME’s name and branding out there. While the benefits may not be obvious and immediate the cumulative effect of brand awareness pays off in the long term. 

Business Networking Tips and Techniques

It’s not a matter of just heading to your nearest business networking event and speaking to people, there are a few approaches you can take to help make the above advantages a reality.

Consider your Audience
Before attending conferences or events it can be a good idea to research who will be in attendance and think about who you want to speak to. You might have different objectives between each group or individual, but overall, it’s best to be mentally prepared beforehand for the different kinds of conversations you’ll be looking to have with these people.

 Be Confident and Knowledgeable
After you’ve politely greeted people, when you then begin conversing with them you should be confident and also come across as knowledgeable and experienced in your particular field and sector. If not, you risk losing their interest, or they may suspect you aren’t as skilled as you set out to appear. You can find some useful, practical techniques for presenting yourself this way here in this guide.

 Have Back-up ‘Patter’
It shouldn’t just be ‘work work work’ when it comes to the conversations you have, as you also need to come across as personable and interesting. Make sure you have a few amusing anecdotes and conversation starters around different topics or events that you could discuss once you’ve become more familiar with the person(s) to whom you’re speaking.

Encourage your Audience to Share

In addition to the above, you should do all the talking. Encourage them to share key information with you, by asking them deliberately probing questions on things like:

  • What their business is and how long they’ve been in operation.
  • More about them and their interests.
  • What business opportunities they might be looking for and why.
  • Who they also know at this particular meeting or event.
  • Whether they have any additional recommendations on who else you could speak to about your line of work or sector.

You can also keep the conversation flowing by asking them to elaborate on points they may have already made.

 Exchange Contact Information
If you feel your meetings and conversations have gone well, then it’s time to make a full connection by sharing your contact information. This might be the old-fashioned – yet tried and tested – ways like giving them a business card, but it might be a matter of swapping numbers, email address, or even agreeing to additional meetings at one another’s places of work.

 Follow-Up Worthwhile Connections
After the events and/or meetings you’ve had, to truly establish your business network, you need to follow-up on any connections you think are worthwhile. You’ll probably have a reasonably good idea of which conversations and meetings went well, so drop those people a line and request another meeting or phone call to pick up where you left off. This is particularly important if you think you were on the cusp or securing some business for your SME. 

So, use some of the above business networking tips and techniques and soon you could begin to make the most of the advantages a strong business network can provide. Also, remember that not every connection you make will be a fruitful one, but getting your name into different business circles could prove to be beneficial in the long run. 

Image courtesy of iStock

Whilst care has been taken in the production of this article and the information contained within it has been obtained from sources that Aon UK Limited believes to be reliable, Aon UK Limited does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the article or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may rely on it. In any case any recipient shall be entirely responsible for the use to which it puts this article.

This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 19/01/18.

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