You know it’s something you know you should be doing but the thought of it doesn’t feel good. Bekka Prideaux shares her thoughts about networking.
Does the thought of networking fill you with dread?
When I mention Networking to people, the reaction I get from people is remarkably similar, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you are currently feeling a bit the same! You know it’s something you know you should be doing but the thought of it doesn’t feel good. I also find that lots of people actively avoid it and even avoid thinking about it – so well done for getting this far!
Let’s start by dispelling some myths and common misconception about networking and hopefully making it less scary...
Networking is meeting people to discuss shared interests in a business or professional capacity and exchanging ideas and information for everyone’s benefits. So, talking to people about something you know about – now even for the shyest amongst us that doesn’t sound so bad!
And how and where you have those conversations can take many forms, meeting someone for coffee, keeping in touch with former colleagues, conversations on professional work sites such as LinkedIn or business groups online, going to a very structured networking group, or a very relaxed one, joining a professional association or club, or going to a conference or exhibition. The key is to find the ones that work for you and your business.
Why does Networking Matter?
If you think about how you decide what products and services to buy, a common theme is probably the people who provide those products and services. For your business to be successful you need people to buy from you. If no one knows you are there offering your product or services, no matter how wonderful you and your products are, how can they do that?
Networking is one of the most effective ways of marketing your business. When I look at where my sales come from it is mostly from networking – from conversations I have had with people. Those conversations could have started at a networking meeting or by keeping in touch with people I have met at business events. Yes, this takes time and effort, but so do other forms of marketing like social media and it is important to think about the time to results ratio!
Meeting people and growing your customer base isn't the only reason networking is great for your business
Networking isn’t just about the people you meet – it is also about the people they know. During conversations with our contacts, they may be able to suggest someone they think could help us or who we could help and make those introductions. It is much easier to follow up and introduction than it is to call someone you don’t know! Networking is much more about making connections than it is actually selling. And that can lead to new opportunities, pieces of work, collaborations or finding new suppliers.
Meeting people and growing your customer base isn’t the only reason networking is great for your business. I have found that networking has brought me many other benefits too.
I have learnt lots from networking – and not just from speakers! When you share ideas and talk through situations, you often get some really valuable insights from the conversation. Maybe in explaining an idea you will learn a new perspective on it, maybe you will learn a new or better way of doing things.
As well as getting advice and support for the situation you find yourself in, these conversations can also boost your confidence. It feels great to be able to share your thoughts with someone else in business and for them to find it helpful. It can certainly remind you that you do know what you are talking about!
Building your network of business contacts can also mean you have a great sounding board when you need to work through a decision or think through a new idea. Having a group of people who understand your working world can be invaluable in giving you some great feedback and another perspective on a situation or idea. I’ve saved myself a lot of time and heartache by checking out ideas with people before I did too much work on them – ideas that really were not as good as my initial enthusiasm had hoped! Other ideas have come out of the process much better for it.
And lastly, and possibly most importantly, networking is good for your mental wellbeing. Working for yourself and running a business can be lonely. Even when you are surrounded by family and friends who are supportive, they don’t necessarily understand what you are dealing with. When you network you might meet new friends, and it will certainly help you feel less isolated. I’ve made some great friends as a result of this
Don’t just take my word for it!
In conclusion, there are lots of benefits from networking. Friendships, opportunities, support, gaining confidence and so many more – but don’t just take my word for it.
I asked some of my business friends (all of whom I met by networking!) and this is what they had to say:
Networking with the Bee's Knees made me feel part of a community, part of a supportive group. It's a networking group that lifts you up, by helping each other grow and develop in your own direction. It's the place where community is over competition Alessia Tumbiolo, Ali’s Paper
Networking is fantastic for my business, raising the profile of what services we offer and how we can support the wider business community. I’ve made some fantastic connections and friends through attending networking activities which is great when you run a business: after all it can be quite lonely. Amy Farnfield - Notebook and Pen
Networking has not only been positive for my mental health but also to elevate my business.
Through networking I have expanded my reach of businesses and made some fabulous friends. It's enabled me to get to the heart of what local businesses really need in their professional communities, I am able to offer solutions and develop connections with and for others because of this. Chloe Peters - Jam on Toast Marketing
Networking has been important to my business, particularly the way The Bees do it - i.e. all ladies, really supportive, no ‘lockouts’. It has helped my tiny business get on the map and everyone is really supportive and helpful whether it’s recommending each other on social media, explaining technology or emotional support. I have met some lovely ladies and made some great friends and feel so much more confident knowing they are there if I need them. Gill Buckmaster - Red Poppies Studio
So, why not give networking for your business a go – who knows what wonderful things it will bring to your business and your working life!
If you'd like to come along to one of The Bee's Knees meetings, please join us