When I started my small business in 2010, I had no business contacts at all in Scotland. So I armed myself with an elevator pitch and business cards and started networking. And here are the 7 lessons I’ve learned in business networking over all these years.
1. Give it time
First thing I realised was that networking takes time. Think about it – how many times do you need to meet someone until you remember their face and name? Exactly!
One of the lessons I’ve learned in business networking is that it needs repetition to work. People need to meet you several times (and, ideally, hear from other people about you) before they trust you.
And trust is important if you want them to buy from your or refer business to you. So attend networking events regularly if you want to see results.
Read more about the best networking events in Edinburgh for small businesses.
2. The bigger picture
Among the lessons I’ve learned in business networking is that some people go to a networking event to target a specific kind of business or person – to the exclusion of everybody else.
But networking is not only about the person in front of you. It’s also about who they know.
Even if they’re not likely to buy from you, they can still recommend you to their contacts. Or know a freelancer with the exact skill set you are looking for. So be careful before you dismiss someone.
Trying to figure out who has the skill set you’re looking for? Check out my post outlining 12 Marketing and Sales Job Definitions to help you decide!
3. Build your network
The goal of networking isn’t just about generating new business. It’s also an opportunity to find new suppliers or business partners.
For example, if you’re looking for a new copywriter, you might meet one at your next networking event or get a recommendation for one.
I met most of the freelancers and businesses I collaborate with at networking events, trade shows or conferences. So if I can’t help someone myself, I am able to recommend someone who can.
Collaborating can be an amazing way to grow your network! Find out more about how to successfully make it happen here.
4. Catch up
Number 4 of lessons I’ve learned in business networking: I understand that too many known faces at a networking event can be counterproductive.
But I think it’s also important to catch up with contacts you have made in the past. It’s a great way to remind them of you and your business.
Ideally, you want a 50/50-mix of people you know and don’t know (yet) at networking events. For one, it’s a good way to get started and perhaps get introduced to new contacts. But it’s also helping you build a relationship with someone you have met before.
Apart from meeting potential clients or customers, suppliers or service providers, networking events are also great to get support for you and your small business.
Especially if you are a sole trader or alone at the helm of your company, talking to like-minded business owners and people who are in a similar situation can give you great insights.
Are you looking for some feedback or want to hear how other business owners have solved a particular problem? Never underestimate the power of peer-to-peer support through networking!
6. Listen & learn
Some networking groups invite speakers to talk about a business-related topic.
These talks can be a bit of a double-edged sword. There’s a good chance that it turns out just to be a sales pitch, the speaker might not be very talented or the topic isn’t really relevant to you.
But often enough it doesn’t just take time away from your networking. You can actually learn something new.
See if you can find out in advance who is speaking and book your events accordingly. This way you might not just make new contacts but also gain new knowledge or skills.
Be open to the possibility and don’t brush off the chance to broaden your horizons. Always keep learning!
This is true in and outside of business networking. If you’re keen to add new strings to your bow in your own time, here are some great online learning platforms to check out!
While networking is purely business-related, that’s not all it is. That’s why a lot of networking event organisers and membership organisations throw in a purely social event every now and then. From time to time, it’s good to simply relax and let business be business.
I can certainly say to have made quite a few friends at networking events over the years. People I ended up sharing an office with or who are now my first port of call if I need a buddy for the pub quiz. As busy as work keeps us, let’s not forget to kick back and have fun.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
How to Grow Your Small Business with Public Speaking
The Best (Online) Networking Events & Clubs to Join in Edinburgh & Scotland
How I Found My Ideal Client & What I Learned Along the Way
How to be a Pro in Online Networking Video Calls