In the News
Keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry and markets, and being in touch with the people driving them, is hugely energising and rewarding. It also gets you out there learning new things and meeting awesome people who could help and inspire you.
Benefits of Networking:
- Getting together with like-minded people can be inspiring and motivating
- Receiving feedback on your ideas can help things progress
- Someone else’s experience or know-how could solve a problem for you or help you avoid a costly mistake
- New leads and contacts could become valuable allies, trusted suppliers, that big-breakthrough customer, or a heaven-sent mentor
- Engaging with new people grows your people skills and boosts confidence
- Being visible and active gives you a profile in your business community. This helps build your reputation and attracts attention and support to your business
- Having people on your side is word-of-mouth advertising. People spread good information about people they like
- It can be fun!
Networking is not only useful, but also one of the more fun aspects of being in business. Getting started is easy and you’ll be networking like a pro before you know it.
- Join your industry or business association. This is a great way to get in tune with what’s happening and in touch with who’s doing it. Search for your kindred spirits on the Australian Government’s Business Directory. Also search online and check out the classified ads in trade magazines.
- Spread the net wide while remaining selective. Pick and choose your opportunities, aiming for quality over quantity.
- Look at your customers? associations and events, too. Networking with your target markets helps win customers and gives you insights into what makes them tick.
- You can network even if you’re in a remote part of the country. There are lively forums, blogs, information sites, and online associations for practically every industry under the sun.
Different types of networks
- Business or industry associations
- Learning networks
- Trade associations
- Employers? federations
- Regional/local organisations, such as chambers of commerce
- Community groups – including action groups and co-ops
- Virtual networks – Internet based communities & interest groups
Types of networking
- Organised meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences
- e-based discussion and debates
- Business trips and tours organised or sponsored by a business or trade organisation
- Social events
- Survey and focus groups
Top tips for networking at events
Fronting up to events where you don’t know anyone can be daunting for even the brightest social butterfly. It can be even scarier if you’ve been out of the loop for a while, with the only networking you have been doing being at the breakfast table or the local playground! Here are some tips to make it all a bit easier:
- Take a trusty mate. If you feel you can’t front up on your own, take someone with you for moral support and to help you work the room. Make sure it’s someone you trust.
- Dress and look the part. Dress so that you look like you belong. For example, if your business is connected to agriculture, maybe leave the sequinned power shoulders and Lamboutins at home.
- Do your homework. Read up on the industry in general and the event’s topics in particular. Google the names of the organisers and keynote speakers. This will give you plenty of interesting and relevant stuff to talk about with people.
- Be prepared. Get business cards printed. They don’t have to be fancy or give too much away. Your name, email, mobile phone number and business name and/or logo could be enough to start with. You may also like to take other marketing materials with you, if you’ve got to that stage and if it’s appropriate. Don’t forget to give them out!
- Do a dummy run. Get together with some friends and role-play a networking situation. Use your imaginations and have some fun with it while getting down to business.
- Rehearse answers to questions. Be prepared to answer questions about your situation, your business and your ideas. Remember – don’t give too much away. Be ready with responses that are factual but unrevealing, then ask them a question to keep the conversation rolling.
Once you’ve arrived at the event (on time, of course):
- Don’t get excited and spill the beans to competitors. Stick to lemonade or coffee and repeat to yourself, “Loose lips sink ships”. Alcohol is sometimes available at events and it can be dangerous, especially if it makes you wobble.
- Stand near a door so you’re seen. Try to look relaxed and approachable, but not overly eager. Lurking in a corner not only hides you from people, but also puts you at risk of being trapped there by some bore.
- Join a 3-person conversation, as opposed to a 2-person chat, which might be private.
- Move around and work the room in a natural relaxed way.
- Don’t spend too much time with competitors, focus on opportunities.
- Swap business cards – but not indiscriminately.
While official networking events are great places to start to get the word out about your new business or product, understand that every social interaction has the potential to be a great networking time. Without being overly self promotional, when people ask you “what have you been up to” don’t be afraid to tell them about your idea. Be confident in the work you have already put in and explain it to others, without giving the whole game away. Some of your key contacts might be met at a dinner with friends, a school event or even the playground!
Launching your business means marketing, too. Find out more about Marketing a Small Business. If you’d like to work more on your usiness before appearing on the scene check out our articles on Naming a Business and Setting up a Business.