You own a small business – maybe you have a couple of staff members who each wear a lot of hats, or maybe it’s just you, hustling to get everything done. Someone invites you to a networking event. You think: I don’t have time to stand around talking to people for two hours. I have a business to run.
If you want your business to succeed, if you want it to be the best it can be – you need networking, and I mean face-to-face, looking people in the eye, drinking coffee and mingling networking. Here’s why:
Relationships Build Business
Let’s start with the obvious. Networking groups connect you with other business people. If your target market is not other businesses, you might think connecting with other business people won’t help you. But it will.
Networking events provide a forum for you to get to know other business people on a personal level. You make eye contact. You shake hands. You build trust.
When you build trust you build relationships. And as I learned watching my father run his small business (http://www.pcsole.com) over the last 17 years, relationships are the foundation of a successful business.
So when the new contact you met at the networking event needs a product or service like yours, who do you think they’ll call? What about if one of their clients or friends needs that service?
Networking Leads to Great Ideas
I’m a member of BizConnect, the best networking group in Hampton Roads, Virginia, (nobody paid me to say that, it’s just the truth) and my business has grown as a direct result of my membership. Not only have I met great people (and landed clients), I’ve also had some great ideas.
Sometimes as an independent business person or small business owner, you don’t know what you don’t know. You’re so focused on the next task or the next client, that the big picture is hard to see.
At networking groups, you’re exposed to people from other businesses and other industries entirely. They know what you do and they can see it from an outsider’s perspective.
Here’s an example: at the last BizConnect member meetup I attended, I was talking to BizConnect founder Laura Henderson. Laura is launching a new brick and mortar location for the group, and she was asking me about ways we could partner.
She mentioned maybe I could give some sort of presentation to the group about writing or content marketing.
Doesn’t sound like a huge jump right? I write, I create marketing. Couldn’t I give a simple presentation about how to do this for yourself? Couldn’t I train people, at least in the basics?
Of course I could. I just hadn’t thought to offer it until she gave me the idea. And she wouldn’t have given me the idea if I hadn’t been standing in front of her talking about our businesses.
Which brings me to my last thought.
Communities Keep You Motivated
It’s so easy to get discouraged. The life of a small business owner or entrepreneur is busy, and challenging and there’s always more to learn than there is time in which to learn it.
If you’re not careful, you can get bogged down. And like Artax from the Neverending Story (shout out in the comments if you get this reference), you can sink into the swamp of sadness and give up.
The best networking groups keep that from happening. They surround you with a group of people who care about your business and cheer your success.
And that alone is worth an hour or two out of my week.
Now Go Find a Networking Group
Not all networking groups are created equal. Which is good, because we’re all different. Shop around and find the group that works for you. Your business will thank you.